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New Jeep to join range

Styling cue: The Dakar Concept from 1997.

Jeep will add a fourth model to its range in the middle of 2001

23 Nov 2000

JEEP will add a fourth model to its four-wheel drive range next year.

Originally slated to replace the Cherokee, the new model will be called Liberty in the US market.

Another name will be needed in Australia to avoid conflict with the Subaru mid-size sedan of the same name, itself a name-changer in deference to the Legacy charity.

Chrysler Australia spokesman Geoff Middleton refused to comment on the vehicle or say when it might reach Australia.

DaimlerChrysler has said the Liberty will be built in a new Ohio factory, which has the capacity to build 200,000 vehicles a year.

It is believed the Liberty borrows some styling cues from the 1997 Dakar concept vehicle (shown).

Although details are under embargo until January, it is expected Liberty will fall between Cherokee and Grand Cherokee in size and price.

The current Cherokee, introduced in 1983, will be built until at least mid-2002 when a new generation vehicle is expected.

But it is expected the US Cherokee options will be simplified. An upgraded Grand Cherokee is expected in 2003.

US sales of Grand Cherokee are almost double those of the Cherokee - to the end of October, 2000, Chrysler sold 422,379 Jeeps, down from 464,504 for the same period last year.

Meanwhile, three US DaimlerChrysler North American vehicle assembly plants will stop production next week to reduce growing inventories.

The temporary plant shutdowns come as the former Chrysler Corp. struggles to return to profitability following a disastrous third quarter and amid signs of a slowing US economy.

It follows a one-week shutdown of seven of DaimlerChrysler's 13 North American assembly operations four weeks ago.

The affected plants include the home of the Grand Cherokee and another factory where the Cherokee and Wrangler are made.

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