Monday night at 5:43 PM, TTAC received this note from Chrysler PR
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango short-lead media drive program – originally scheduled for August 4-14 in Seattle – is being postponed. We deeply regret this late notice and apologize for disrupting your busy summer schedule. We will get back to you as soon as possible regarding information for the media drives of the Cherokee and Durango, which we expect will take place in the first half of September.
For those of you that have already booked your flights to the program, your reservation will automatically be canceled by our travel company, BCD Travel. Should you have questions related to this, please feel free to contact me and/or the individuals noted below:
This is the first time in recent memory that a press launch has been cancelled outright, and the delay apparently stems from calibrating the much-hyped 9-speed automatic transmission that has so far been vaporware in the Dart. This follows announcements by Chrysler that Cherokee production would be delayed and units wouldn’t arrive at dealers until September, while other reports cited fit-and-finish issues as well as transmission problems as the reason for the delay.
Delaying the launch leaves Chrysler in an unfortunate position in terms of public perception (and certainly among the media), but frankly, they have good reason to do it. The Cherokee is a very important product for them; Jeep’s future in world markets, as well as North America, is riding in part on this car.
Chrysler is definitely cognizant of the fact that this car is controversial among certain members of the media. It is the revival of a storied nameplate but is seen to lack any continuity with the original XJ Cherokee. Despite the fact that the vast majority of consumers want a crossover and their needs are best served by them, the automotive press continues to regard crossovers with barely disguised disdain.
Between that and the highly polarizing styling and you have a recipe for a PR disaster should the Cherokee not be up to snuff in terms of QC or driving dynamics. There are certainly members of the press ready and willing to rip it a new one for failing to live up to their expectations, whether realistic or outlandish. Personally, I am very interested in this car. As the first major Jeep launch built of CUSW, and the first application of the 9-speed automatic, it will set the tone for Jeep’s performance as a future star (and profit center) of Chrysler and Fiat. The consequences of it flopping will be severe for Chrysler, and I was looking forward to getting some seat time in the Cherokee. Evidently, that will have to wait.
By delaying the launch (even at great expense) they are increasing their chances of getting good press for such an important car.The recent recall of the Grand Cherokee and the Liberty is also looming in the background at Auburn Hills, even if it doesn’t have a direct bearing on the Cherokee’s launch. What I’m curious about is whether this apparent commitment to quality will extend past the launch of the Cherokee and into regular production and future launches. Any future delays or holdups with future product launches won’t exactly inspire confidence in Chrysler’s ability to launch high-quality vehicles in a timely manner. This is “Strike Two” after all.