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Gilles on the Cherokee: not as polarizing

by David Zatz on

With the squinty headlights gone from the 2019 Jeep Cherokee, FCA is about to find out just how polarizing the controversial design of the old model was.

Jeep brand chief Michael Manley rolled out the updated 2019 Cherokee in Detroit this morning; the press generally gave approving nods toward its new fascia, redesigned rear end, and new 2.0-liter turbo option. Gone are the ultra-slim, signature headlights on the fifth-generation design that allegedly turned off some would-be buyers.

2019 Jeep Cherokee launch

“I wouldn’t say they were disliked — polarizing, I’d say,” said Gilles, head of design for FCA North America. But the new look wasn’t necessarily dictated by any reaction to the previous look: the new lights also happen to be the result of a “cost issue” with the previous design, Gilles told Allpar after the introduction of the 2019 at the North American International Auto Show. The new design means “more efficiency” from a manufacturing standpoint, and also happen to be better, “high-performance” projector lamps.

As to the new looks’ effect on showroom appeal and sales: “We’ll find out.” The 2019 will be on sale this quarter, along with the new Wrangler.

Gilles said the flood of new product from FCA over the past few quarters means his design team is going to take a bit of a break from pumping out new vehicles. “We put a lot of sweat equity” into the Cherokee, Ram 1500 and Wrangler over a short period “and we just need some time for some long-term projects.”

He laughed when asked what he has on the boards that he’s so anxious for the team to get back to. “You know we don’t talk future product.” When will the team turn its attention to the sedans segment? Well, “the 300 is still selling really well.” And as old as the Challenger is, “we’ve been able to offer a lot of juicy” versions of it.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne attended the unveiling but was not on stage.

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