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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Jeep: New Models and Old Names Are Coming

    By William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    January 30, 2013

    When Jeep introduces the new Liberty SUV at the New York Auto Show later in March, it might be wearing a new nameplate.

    “There are clearly only two options for the name of this vehicle: It’s either going to be Cherokee or it’s going to be Liberty. We are going to make that decision in the very near future. Both of them are historical names, Cherokee more so than Liberty,” said Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley.

    The Liberty replaced the Cherokee in 2002 and has been struggling for sales during its lifespan. Outside of North America, Jeep has left the Cherokee nameplate.

    Also coming from Jeep is a new subcompact SUV coming within the next two years. The subcompact model would be based on the Fiat Panda and replace the Compass and Patriot models. Manley says the vehicle will be "a Jeep with Jeep DNA.”

    Source: Wards Auto

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    well i guess in 2013 they could shun Liberty and just call it the Jeep Progressive and even do a free insurance promotion with FLO.

    Cherokee it would end up to be. Jeep Liberty in 2013 does sound too cheesy.

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    There are a few reasons why Chrysler executives rechristened the Cherokee as the Liberty in North America. The main and seldom known reason is that demand remained very steady and sustainable for the old XJ Cherokee, even after the original ZJ Grand Cherokee came on board to replace it in 1993, and the KJ and XJ models were supposed to be sold side by side for a few years, similar to how the ZJ and XJ remained on sale side by side. There were quite a few people at Chrysler at the time that were afraid to mess around too much with what had been a very popular model and big cash cow for the company (the development for the XJ was basically paid for by the late '80s/early '90s, I believe). You also more than like have Wolfgang Bernhard's vicious vendetta to thank for killing the Cherokee name as well.

    As for the new Cherokee, I do think that it will be a severe disappointment for those who are expecting an updated version of the original. Based on what I know about this new Jeep, it may turn out to be a little more capable than the current Compass by an extremely slim margin.

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    The Cherokee Nation ain't what she used to be, but she's still going on.

    Open mind here, trying. I am intrigued by the latest spy shots.

    Just the name will be enough for a lot of folks, I think.

    Current Grand is too expensive for off-road thrashing. The only rough-and-ready Jeep left is the Wrangler, even now. The outgoing Liberty had to be modified to be any kind of serious off-roader, with seriously restricted freedom in tire size choice without a lift, IFS, etc.

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    Just the name will be enough for a lot of folks, I think.

    That's precisely the problem. There will be people who will show up at Jeep dealers trading in their old XJs for the new KL model expecting off-road capability matching or exceeding that of the XJ. That won't be the case. If anything, there's a reputation on the line that stands to be damaged.

    Some hardcore Jeepers who have also managed to see the KL ahead of debut have also condemned it far worse than I have so far. They already want the outgoing KK Liberty back, and I think that says something.

    Current Grand is too expensive for off-road thrashing. The only rough-and-ready Jeep left is the Wrangler, even now. The outgoing Liberty had to be modified to be any kind of serious off-roader, with seriously restricted freedom in tire size choice without a lift, IFS, etc.

    You're right in the fact that the current WK2 Grand Cherokee costs too much coin for your average Joe to use it as a serious trail rig. However, it is quite capable for a big luxo-barge SUV. I think there are two reasons for that.

    One, the Grand Cherokee is the flagship model and, because it is in a position of prestige at the brand, customers expect it to have capability worthy of the Jeep name.

    The second reason is a little less obvious, but if you know the history of the Jeep brand it makes sense. When the late '70s to early '80s Grand Wagoneer was around, it was exceptionally popular for the time, despite the fact it was based on 20 year-old-plus engineering and design. Even folks who bought Audi 80s and BMW 5ers found no issue in parking a Grand Wagoneer in their garage at night. The Grand Wagoneer was a very ruggedly-built yet plush SUV for the time, and was just as well made as any Range Rover while coming in significantly cheaper. When AMC dealers recognized the wealthier clientelle that were showing up on their lots, they saw an opportunity to make even more money and began asking AMC to make the Grand Wagoneer even more plush and more expensive, pushing the price closer to Range Rover territory. For whatever reason, AMC decided against that idea (much like the XJ situation over at Chrysler in the '90s, AMC was probably afraid to take a risk on messing with something that already made them a good amount of profit).

    What used to be true for the Grand Wagoneer is now becoming true of the Grand Cherokee. Give it some time and I guarantee it will grow even further in price to become America's answer to the Range Rover. But in order for the Grand Cherokee to be worthy competition for the established Range Rover, it needs to retain its off-road capability to keep up.

    While the JK Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited would be acceptable alternatives for current XJ owners (they certainly match or exceed the XJ in prowess and dependability), the JK falls horribly short where the XJ always excelled and will excell: price. The JK, bluntly put, is way too goddamn expensive for what it is (read: pretty damn basic transportation; while I really do love the Wrangler, it's honestly about as lavish as a third-world port-a-john). A decent JK will set you back at least $27,000, and that's just a stone's throw away from WK2 money.

    As for the old KJ and KK model Liberties, their biggest downfall was weight. Granted, that porky curb weight was partially due to the change from a front coil-link suspension to IFS, but that was also because Bernhard and his group of cronies that flew ship from Daimler revised the KJ product plans to make it more of a competitor to RAV-4 of the time. That included revising the dimensions of the KJ, which was already being developed when this decision was made (this also explains why the KJ looked so tall and "pushed-in"). Because Bernhard wanted the KJ to have a smaller footprint comparable to the RAV-4 and have IFS to address the blighted criticisms the automotive press had about the XJ's coils, the weight went up.

    However, they are still mostly competent off-roaders when lightly modified. To be fair, even though a stock XJ Cherokee will fair better than a stock KJ or KK Liberty out in the rough stuff, the XJ requires some very basic and inexpensive mods in order to be a really worthy trail rig.

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    I think the best thing that could be done is for GM to bring back a basic TrailBlazer with the Hummer H3 capability powered by the 2.9L Duramax Diesel at an attractive Mid 20's Price point and you will win over Jeepers who are looking for a Capable off road package.

    Trailblazer Z71 4x4

    64 to 1 crawl ratio

    2.9L Duramax Diesel

    Wash out inside.

    Option OEM Roll Cage

    This could sell very well. :P

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    Jeep needs to aim to be an American alternative to Land Rover but with budget options and trims that people can go mudding in without worrying about the leather.

    Very True, they have Trail Rated setups, but they also need Trail Rated Interiors.

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    Why do the Liberties ride so terrible?

    Well, like I mentioned earlier, that's likely a by-product due in part to Bernhard's revisions which made the KJ smaller (and poorly packaged versus the XJ), heavier, and top-heavy. Jeep engineers already had some of the basic structure work ready when Bernhard demanded that the KJ become smaller, and it was probably too expensive at that point to just pack up and go back to the drawing board and totally start fresh to meet his expectations. I'm also pretty sure that Jeep was probably going to go with coils initially for the KJ considering that the '99 WJ Grand Cherokee still had them. Hastily chopping the structure down and re-engineering it to accept a IFS layout are probably two of the biggest reasons why a KJ has such a sloppy ride.

    I'll also quote an interesting exerpt from an article over at Allpar that was written by a former Chrysler/AMC engineer, Evan Boberg, on this one as well:

    I looked under [a KJ Liberty] the other day and spotted a huge mass damper on the rear axle (a typical Ford band aid for a crappy design). Maybe it's a Ford design. Ford is notorious for over designing everything, especially trucks. We commonly referred to Ford truck engineering as "heavy truck." They would figure out how thick the metal should be to not break and then make it twice as thick to be sure.

    Edited by black-knight
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    One more thing, as much as I've bashed Bernhard so far, I think Mike Manley is probably just about as worse. He's made remarks about the future of the Wrangler that really, really concern me.

    Example (from GoAuto):

    Mr Manley said the next-generation Wrangler is highly likely continue with a body-on-frame design, but the generation after that could be forced to drop the ladder chassis.
    Edited by black-knight
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    Hopefully they aren't working on using the Fiat 500 platform for the next Wrangler...

    That's funny because, considering what I keep hearing from Manley, it probably isn't too far from the truth.

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    A lot of people who own XJ's and off road them aren't really concerned with the new cars, in my area anyway, which haas a big off roading community and a lot of Cherokees. They buy them because they are cheap (the similar vintage Wranglers hold their value much better), and 4.0 is reliable.

    Sure their might be some grumbling, but its like people on the internet who complain about cars they either can't afford or wouldn't buy anyway. Plus, these days if one wants a 4-door Sport Utility Vehicle by Jeep with true off-road chops, isn't enormous and have money to spend, there's the Wrangler Unlimited.

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    The next Compass/Patriot is supposed to be based on the current 4x4 Panda, I think?

    Everything sub-KL Cherokee is, honestly, just a little bit of a mess over at Jeep right now. Call it a hunch, but I don't think everyone at Jeep shares Manley's vision for the brand.

    The NG Compass is supposed to use a model specific version of the CUSW platform that pins the Dart and KL Cherokee and will be close to the current Patriot in size. I keep hearing different things related to its capabilities, so I'm trying to keep the jury out for now. However, I will say that I'll be suprised if it turns out to be more capable than the current model.

    The "B-Segment" Jeep was initially supposed to use a revised version of the SCSS platform that currently pins the Fiat Grande Punto and Opel Corsa D. However, current reports coming from Fiat India's head-honcho, Enrico Atanasio, indicate that the B-Segment model would be unique from any related Fiat version. I will add that I doubt that it won't have a related Fiat model, and that it will be more capable than the current/upcoming Compass. I guess that would be better than just seeing a Punto dressed up like it was in a few hundreds of dollars worth of North Face and L.L. Bean gear, but we'll see.

    Edited by black-knight
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    Well I voiced my disappointment when it was revealed the new conventional automatic was not going to be available in the "Trail Rated" Patriot... then I remembered that the Patriot has no transfer case, that the "off road" mode is simply a component of the CVT and software to enhance traction.

    Every mention of a future Fiat-based Jeep by Chrysler executives includes the phrase "true Jeep" or "Jeep DNA". They fiercely defend the brand with their words, but the proof will be in the pudding.

    I am not saying that Fiat and their Iveco subsidiary cannot build a rugged off-road vehicle, but is it a JEEP? I am harboring some initial excitement for this new Cherokee. If it comes across as phony after a thorough introduction, then all bets are off.

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