By on July 31, 2013

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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.

 

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52 Comments on “Editorial: Chrysler Dodges Poison Pen Darts By Delaying Jeep Cherokee Launch...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    You are 100% right. If the Cherokee doesn’t ride and drive like a magic carpet, it is going to be massacred. Better to wait until its right.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      I feel like much of the style panning is coming from outlets that also derided the Evoque – and I personally hate that car and everything it stands for, but it is a SMASHING sales success.

      Never a good idea to add fuel to a critical fire that’s already going.

  • avatar

    Sometimes mama pulls you to the side and says “FIX YO FACE”.

    Hopefully that’s what they are doing here.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Kudos to the new TTAC. Justified snark in the story but balanced point of view and a straight up just the facts approach on the why.

    Let the B&B be fanbois or haters based on their own conformational bias.

    This is the way it should be.

    If the 9-speeds aren’t ready, the delay makes sense (seems a safe bet that’s the issue). But then one has to wonder is this simple computer programming or…

  • avatar

    Thankfully I doubt this affects the 2014 Durango at all. I have a client who has one on order and guidance still indicates an early to mid September delivery.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    “If the 9-speeds aren’t ready, the delay makes sense (seems a safe bet that’s the issue). But then one has to wonder is this simple computer programming or…”

    That will affect a lot of ZFs customers outside Chrysler.

    [On the other hand it might be the promise of a off road capable drivetrain based on a econo car transmission that is the problem; but still that could cause trouble for Chrysler and Rover]

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Very wise to delay things and get it right with a brand new model, rather than launch and head into a potential recall.

    I give the product a 50/50 chance, perfect launch or no, due to the controversy its already generated (unless they are going to also do an emergency “tone down” refresh as well).

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’d say they couldn’t change the looks, after having so many publicity items published with the current appearance. I mentioned in a comment on the other Jeep article recently, I think they’ll do a facelift after or 1 or 2 MY’s, and then just have the initially sold ones looking dated.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “I think they’ll do a facelift after or 1 or 2 MY’s, and then just have the initially sold ones looking dated.”

        Maybe that was the plan all along muhahaha :)

        Time will tell, if this doesn’t meet the right metrics out of the gate they may be forced to make a quick change. Honda, to their credit, was able to crank out a revised Civic pretty quickly. Fiatsler may do the same.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I applaud them for doing the right thing. The cost of delaying the launch until the car is right won’t be nearly as much as getting a bad reputation from the start.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I have to agree with the other folks. I’ve seen the results of vehicles rushed into production.

    With the choices the consumer has these days,there is no tolerance for a poor launch.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      But why the rush first with the Dart and now with the Cherokee? Where is the quality process that ensures that new product launches proceed only after everything is sorted out?

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    Adding to the chorus of folks who would prefer to get a good product late than a bad one immediately, but: This is a bad habit to be slipping into.

  • avatar
    tuffjuff

    I personally like CUV’s and think they make more sense for 95% of SUV buyers than actual SUVs’, and I honestly don’t mind the look of this particular vehicle, either. It makes it feel slightly Fiat-ish, but then I guess part of me wonders why they didn’t just save the front for an actual Fiat, minus the slats?

    Either way, they’re going to be criticized. Keep the Grand Cherokee’s aesthetics and suddenly they’re too Audi-esque with not enough model differentiation (after all, the redesigned Compass already looks like a small JGC). Do something “out of the box” and they’re criticized. To be fair, MANY of the commentary on certain automotive Facebook pages seem to be from people who are… shall we say, stuck in the 90′s.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I would write a longer rebuttal to your comment, but I’m too busy ironing my Bugle Boy jeans.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        I guess I’m just of the mindset that the platform a vehicle is based off of doesn’t make the vehicle, and while I personally will never feel the need to go hardcore off-roading, I appreciate that there are vehicles that exist that let you, and I don’t care if they’re based on a truck, or a Ford Fiesta, if they get the job done then that’s great. You don’t NEED a vehicle based on a truck, for most things. A crossover, or hatchback or wagon will offer the towing and storage for almost all circumstances.

        If you need more, good for you. You can buy more. But somebody buying a Chevy Suburban to drive themselves around, alone, when they could do the same thing in a plethora of other vehicles that would burn less gas, take up less space, etc, that drives me crazy.

        Seriously, go on Facebook to auto pages and look at the rednecks, “THAT JEEP GRAND CHUR-UH-KEE, IT DONT GOT A TRUCK BODY, IT SUX MAN!” is all you see.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I agree 100% After owning 4 “hard core” Jeeps I realized that although I still need some off-road capabilities, my rock-crawling days are pretty much behind me. I also can’t deal with vehicles that only get 12-14mpg. I went the CUV route and found them to be more then adequate for most of my driving needs and more fun to drive being smaller lighter and more agile, plus double the gas mileage. I don’t like like the lack of control over the automatic AWD. Enter new Cherokee. I was ready to buy this. It seemed to be, on paper, the CUV I wanted. Size. power 4X4 that allowed for driver input, but the longer it’s taken to get the bugs out of the new Cherokee, the colder my feet got. Maybe in a few years after they’ve had time to perfect the Cherokee I’ll revisit it, but for now, my money went to Ford

          • 0 avatar
            tuffjuff

            I’m amazed that with all the current JGC can do, including towing… 7,500 pounds? that it gets 24-25 MPG highway.

            My girlfriend’s 2003 Mercury Sable gets 19-20 MPG in mixed driving, for crying out loud.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            It’s better, the last Grand I owned (2002) had the HO V8 and could not pass a gas station. I love the new Grand, it’s just more vehicle then I need, but the Cherokee is just right. If it turns out well, I’ll still get it next time around

      • 0 avatar
        Secret Hi5

        I have not seen a reference to Bugle Boy jeans in . . . more than a decade? The things I encounter on TTAC!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “To be fair, MANY of the commentary on certain automotive Facebook pages seem to be from people who are… shall we say, stuck in the 90′s.”

      We’ve pretty much lost the last decade economically and culturally speaking, why not join us in the not-to-distant decade, friend?

      Delusions of the past are much more preferable to the current reality.

  • avatar
    Charles T

    “Dodges Darts”
    I see what you did there.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    All I can say is that, whether it was fit-and-finish or transmission issues, Chrysler obviously wants to get it right…and that’s nothing to frown upon, in my book.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “This is the first time in recent memory that a press launch has been cancelled outright”

    That’s not how I read it. The opening paragraph states that it is being postponed:

    “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.”

    And yes, I agree with others, it’s best to wait a bit and get it right. They’re going to have enough of an issue just selling the Cherokee with its catfish-head looks much less having to explain away a mechanical problem.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Speaking of vaporware, where in the world is the Dart 2.4?! Its arrival has been imminent since the Dart’s production started 15 months ago. IMO, it’s the only hope for making the Dart a decent car.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t get the disdain for the looks. It looks like a smaller Grand Cherokee, and is better looking than most of the CUVs out there. I’d rather have a wagon not on stilts, but I understand that I am by far in the minority. Seems like they are making the right call – if it isn’t quite ready, delay the launch to get it there. Smart.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    The looks aren’t bad. I thought the hate on them was very overblown. I think its better looking then the competition. The CR-V, Escape, RAV4 are all ugly. I think some of the Korean competition is better looking though.

    Still its an important vehicle for Chrysler. These are the mid-size sedans of the future. There is little reason to be buy a mid-size sedan over one of these for most American women. These hold more – and yet are easier to drive and take up a less space (L and W) wise. They are also better in inclement weather or heavy snow.

    • 0 avatar
      CrapBox

      Nope. They’re not better in inclement weather.

      In my neck of the woods, where snow is followed by rain and then sub-zero temperatures, it’s unsafe to get on the road in a vehicle with a high centre of gravity. A subcompact with good snow/ice tires will keep you out of the ditches better than any SUV.

      Imagine travelling 100 kph on sheer ice. The best place to be is low to ground, like a hockey player. On the other hand, if you can’t skate, then you’re instinct is to stand upright and lurch forward like Frankenstein. That’s what SUV drivers are doing.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        Ride height is typically higher, if only slightly, and you’ve got a weight advantage. My 2013 Equinox is much nicer in the snow than my 2012 Focus hatch was, with comparably medicore tires on both vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          CelticPete

          Most people in bad weather are concerned about being stuck – not high speed performance. So I’d say better in inclement weather.

          A modern Jeep Grand Cherokee is REALLY good in deep snow – and you do not need ANY skill.

          I drive an Audi most of the time. Its a better compromise for me. I prefer good handling on dry even if it means I can’t drive through the deepest snow storms.

          But women don’t want to get stuck. (Sexist sure but guys are far less sensitive to this). If its icy they can go slow. Again its hard to beat an SUV for the fairer sex.

          I also point to the lack of curbed wheels with an SUV. Does this effect good drivers? No. But these are vehicles that are excellent for bad drivers. Good visibility – high viewing angles etc. All good for normal putzing around town.

          Another bonus with SUVs – easier to put car seats in. I don’t own an CUV/SUV but the reasons they sell so well with women are actually quite logical.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    100 KPH on sheer ice? Uh no, anyone with more sense than God gave cats knows how unsafe that is. 62 MPH on sheer ice? High center of gravity is just one of many factors in your formula of Epic Fail. BTW, ride height and mass? The more the better in most crashes. Anecdotal evidence? I’d rather be in my Escape than Saturn in a sleet/ice storm.

    • 0 avatar
      CrapBox

      The conditions I’ve described are quite common where I live. In the space of a few hours, the roads can be transformed into skating rinks. People jump into their cars thinking that, because the skies are clear and the snowstorm has ended, they can safely travel at 100 kph. Then someone loses control — typically on a bridge or an overpass — and an accident occurs. At that point, the media issues an alert and everyone slows down.

      I remain convinced that the best vehicle to drive in these conditions, which I understand are not universal, is a low compact car with good tires. I can’t prove my point with statistics, but I can say that I’ve participated in many winter rallies, and these events were filled with Subarus and Audis, not Land Rovers.

      The real value of an SUV is getting unstuck in heavy snow or travelling on rough country roads. It’s not driving on icy roads at close to legal speeds.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        Several embarassing visits to the ditch – within a month of one another, I might add – when I was younger has taught me to drive a bit more carefully in the winter, and respect mother nature just a bit more.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I’m anxious to test drive one, but doubt I’ll be trading in my Liberty CRD for one. On the site the Cherokee, when equipped properly, will tow 3,500lbs. My Liberty can tow 5,000lbs, but my camper has an EW of only 3,100lbs.

    Now the big question, if I was serious, would the dealer let me tow my trailer on a test drive? That would be the make it or break it for me. If it did pass that test, It would still have a uphill climb to match my Liberty on everything else….. we’ll see.

  • avatar
    Commando

    You’re raising suspicion on a non-issue. Is this the best you could do today?

  • avatar
    Michael500

    That 2014 looks like a squinting bug, fugly. The front is rounded off too much for a “real” RWD/frame SUV. It will fail looking like that.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    “On time” is dictated by your corporate masters.

    German “on time” definition: two months ago.

    Japanese “on time” definition: today.

    Italian “on time” definition: we’re on vacation, call Luigi back in a few months and we might get around to it. Ciao.

  • avatar

    Great article. Sound analysis. Congratulations Derek

  • avatar
    phargophil

    I’m another who thinks a delay is wise.

    If my old-timer memory is correct, this isn’t the first D3 automaker who delayed a launch. I believe the 2004 Continental LS and Ford Thunderbird were delayed, or at least placed on a factory shipping hold, due to engine cooling problems.

    To FJ60:
    You are more accurate than you may wish to believe in regards to the Italians.


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