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Chrysler plans bold new Cherokee

Stalwart: Today's Cherokee started life in 1983 and has been a solid seller but the market has moved on and the Cherokee lags on and off-road.

An adventurously designed all-new Jeep Cherokee will boost sales late next year

26 Jun 2000

CHRYSLER Jeep Australia will introduce a new Voyager mid-way through next year. About the same time the aged Jeep Cherokee is completely renewed when the KJ Cherokee appears.

The Voyager has a revised body and some clever tweaks, but the all-new KJ Cherokee holds most interest.

It is not clear yet whether the KJ will come with a new name though it is a fair bet the popular Cherokee will be retained.

But this vehicle will debut with new engines including a four-cylinder for the first time in Australia. A diesel option may be further out. There will be no V8 version - that engine is reserved for the bigger Grand Cherokee.

The KJ will have rounded contemporary styling and will be first released to the public at the Detroit motor show in January, 2001.

The KJ will not compromise Jeep's legendary off-road performance. There will be a low range gearbox and two or four-wheel drive on demand. But it is not clear if the construction will be body on chassis or a unitary system as employed by Mitsubishi for the new Pajero and Mercedes-Benz for the M-Class.

The Cherokee is presently built in Toledo, Ohio, its ancestral home, as well as several assembly plants around the world including Thailand. There is a chance new KJ Cherokees for Australia will come from there in due course but at introduction supply will be US-sourced.

According to the managing director of Chrysler Jeep Australia, Mr Stephen Shugg, right-hand drive production will start at the same time as left-hand drive.

"The new KJ will be a traditional Jeep and will do all the things a Jeep can do," Mr Shugg said.

"It will be a bit of a departure from its predecessor, in terms of styling and technology. There will be some all-new characteristics as well. The KJ will have all the off-road capabilities expected of a Jeep.

"The KJ is a differently structured car. It will seat five. It is quite tall (more a Pajero and Prado than the current flat-topped Cherokee).

"It is a completely new car, not a retro look." Meanwhile, the slow-selling Neon sedan will receive a four-speed automatic gearbox for the first time when 2001 model year cars begin rolling from production lines in the US from August. The first four speed boxes should be in showrooms around year's end.

Mr Shugg hopes the PT Cruiser's showroom pull will rub off on Neon, offering buyers who see the PT up close and decide it is too much for them, a less visually radical vehicle.

In order to grow much-needed awareness of Chrysler in Australia, the PT Cruiser will snuggle up to neon and Voyager in a corporate product advertising campaign destined for launch later in the year.

Chrysler product forward model plans

Four speed Auto late this year/early 2001 Voyager: Heavily revised model, mid next year KJ Cherokee:

All new medium-sized 4WD due mid/late next year 300M: Next generation right-hand drive large car coming 2003/4

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