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Fiat's first big Chrysler launch: Grand Cherokee set for 2nd qtr.

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Fiat's first big Chrysler launch: Grand Cherokee set for 2nd qtr.

Bradford Wernle

Automotive News -- February 15, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

CHICAGO -- A redesign of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which will bring desperately needed fresh product to the struggling Chrysler Group, is on schedule to be launched in the second quarter, says Jeep CEO Michael Manley.

Jeep executives are seeking dealer input on "how it should be packaged and how it will be priced," Manley said at the Chicago Auto Show.

Chrysler Group sales fell 36 percent in 2009 from the previous year. Its U.S. market share dropped 2 percentage points in the year to 8.9 percent. Jeep sales fell 31 percent last year.

The Grand Cherokee will be the automaker's first major product launch since Fiat S.p.A. took control after bankruptcy last June. Chrysler was starved for new product investment while owned by the New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

The Grand Cherokee will be the first vehicle with Chrysler's new Phoenix V-6 engine.

Chrysler showed a design prototype of the Grand Cherokee at last year's New York auto show. If Chrysler sticks to a second-quarter launch, this year's New York show, which opens to the press March 31, would be the logical place to show the production version.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is scheduled to speak at an industry event that kicks off the New York show. He canceled his speaking appearance at the auto show here to attend the signing of a joint venture to make vehicles in Russia.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100215/OEM01/302159920/1128#ixzz0fcCXzfyA

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