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High-end model will share platform with Grand Cherokee

By Rick Kranz
Automotive News / June 23, 2003

Room for more

An upscale Grand Cherokee would help Chrysler fill its Jefferson North plant in Detroit. Here's a production snapshot.

1999 peak: 343,536
Last year: 253,237
Source: Automotive News Data Center

Jeep's 2006 lineup
Jeep's 2006 lineup will have 6 vehicles.

Grand Cherokee derivative

Grand Cherokee



Scrambler, a Wrangler derivative

Entry SUV

The Chrysler group plans to expand the Jeep line with a high-end nameplate that will share a platform with the redesigned Grand Cherokee.

The unnamed vehicle will debut in 2005 or 2006, a company source says. It will help the automaker fill its Detroit assembly plant, where the Grand Cherokee is the sole product.

A redesigned Grand Cherokee will debut next year as a 2005 model. There will be "another vehicle off of that platform," said the Chrysler group source, who asked not to be identified.

Asked if the unnamed vehicle would be priced above the Grand Cherokee, he said, "It could be, (but) I consider a Grand Cherokee a high-end Jeep."

Grand Cherokee sticker prices without optional equipment top at $39,365, including transportation.

The Jeep brand has three nameplates: the Wrangler, Liberty and Grand Cherokee. Last year Jeep sold 459,796 U.S. vehicles, a 1.0 percent increase from 2001.

But strong competition from Lexus, Cadillac, Honda and Acura is taking a toll on the Grand Cherokee.

Despite big rebates, Grand Cherokee sales through May of 74,629 were down 14.4 percent from a year ago.

Jeep offers a $3,000 rebate or 0 percent financing on the Grand Cherokee.

Automakers cut costs by taking derivatives off the same platform. As product niches proliferate, the days of a single nameplate other than a full-sized pickup filling a plant are gone.

For many years, the Grand Cherokee was the No. 2-selling SUV behind the Ford Explorer. In 1999, the Grand Cherokee's best sales year, the automaker had no trouble filling capacity at the Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit. That year, Jeep sold 300,031 Grand Cherokees.

In 2002, sales slipped to 224,233. That was good for third place, behind the Explorer and the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The plant's two-shift capacity is 253,237 per year, the company says.

In addition, Chrysler hopes to generate more Jeep sales by producing derivatives from one or two platforms.

In July 2004, the first of several additional Jeep models is expected to debut. The two-passenger Jeep Scrambler will sit on a stretched Wrangler chassis with a 4-foot pickup bed. It was first developed for military applications outside the United States.

Jeep also will offer an entry-level SUV aimed at younger buyers that will be based on either the Compass or Willys 2 concept vehicles. A source says the entry SUV is scheduled for either 2005 or 2006 and will be based on the Wrangler or Liberty platform.

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