So much is riding on the success of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee that executives who now control the Chrysler Group commanded that the Jeep had to be perfect before it went on sale.
That exacting attention to detail is paying off in a flawless launch says Jim Morrison, Jeep’s marketing chief. Every new product today is crucial to Chrysler staying in business. Chrysler can’t afford any misses with its new products.
Government officials who steered Chrysler into and out of a controlled bankruptcy very quickly almost decided to let the company fold, but eventually backed Chrysler because jobs were at stake.
Sales success for the Grand Cherokee so far this year seems to indicate that all that caution is paying off. Chrysler could not afford for the Grand Cherokee to be anything less than a hit right out of the box. Sales of the all-new model soared more than 400 percent in October to 60,898 vehicles. That comes close to making the Grand Cherokee a home run, not just an ordinary single.
Starting price for the new model is $32,995, but the Overland 4×4 model I used for the longest of my test drives carries a sticker price of $42,240. That includes a lot of safety items, such as blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection. Also, adaptive speed control and forward collision warning systems fill out the vehicle with the latest in passive safety.
What’s even more important for Jeep is that the new Grand Cherokee is actually transacting at about $45,000. That’s above base suggested retail price. Morrison says that Chrysler dealers have even taken in a couple of Ferraris as trade-ins for the new Grand Cherokee.
Chrysler is already building Grand Cherokees for export; some with right-hand drive for Europe. Early next year, Chrysler will also begin installing diesel engines in the new Grand Cherokees for the European market. Diesels are a must for any vehicle on sale in Europe.
Booming sales of the Grand Cherokee translate into more jobs for Detroit, a city that has suffered during the current recession. It’s a nice reverse in the trend that has seen so many autoworkers forced onto unemployment lines.
Morrison says Jeep expects about 10 percent of Grand Cherokee customers to use the vehicles off-road. That’s probably overly optimistic. Most Jeep buyers probably dream of traveling off-road with their vehicles, but only a small fraction actually do.
But the new Grand Cherokee is extremely competent on the road. It corners well, minimizing the lean frequently experienced in such high profile vehicles. The Grand Cherokee also sports an interior that is worthy of a luxury car, and why not, since in some versions its price touches premium territory.
More impressive is that the Grand Cherokee’s sturdiness stands up on rough roads without truck-like vibrations or shaking. Most buyers who buy the 5.7-liter engine option will be impressed with the power and torque produced by this engine that’s called the Hemi in other Chrysler products. — Herb Shuldiner, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010