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Delving into Cherokee

by David Zatz on


Automotive News has printed, as a lead story, Larry Vellequette’s discussion of the dilemmas and development choices which led to the current Jeep Cherokee.

The mid-sized SUV market had moved on from serious, heavy duty off-roaders to vehicles designed for snow and gravel, rather than rough terrain. Competitors from all sides were crushing Liberty in sales. Still, to remain credible, Jeep had to provide a certain level of off-road performance which their competitors, largely, do not.

Hence, as Mr. Vellequette wrote, Jeep worked with suppliers including ZF and American Axle to create the sophisticated on-demand all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive systems, the former for “soft-roaders” who do not need high ground clearance or a “no-road-or-trail” drive system. In both cases, the rear wheels are unpowered when extra traction is unnecessary, allowing for high gas mileage.

Re-engineering the existing Liberty chassis would have resulted in at least 400 pounds too much weight, according to Sergio Marchionne.

Mr. Vellequette’s article goes into more detail, and discusses the issues of complexity in creating a brand new vehicle with a brand new transmission, two newly reworked engines (both of which debut on the car), and a brand new drive system.

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