Chrysler CEO admits errors in 2014 Cherokee development and launch

Article by Anita Panait, on November 1, 2013

Chrysler Group chief executive Sergio Marchionne has acknowledged mistakes in the development and launch of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, vowing not to commit them again. “We're never going to take a plant down and be out of the market for over a year," Marchionne told analysts in a conference call. He said that Chrysler was “naked in 2013" in the mid-sized SUV segment as dealers have already sold all the 2012 Jeep Libertys last year, numbering 75,483 units.

The Liberty accounted for less than 5 percent of the Chrysler’s total sales in the United States in 2012, which is pegged at 1,651,787 units. The carmaker posted $464 million in profits in the third quarter of 2013, and is expecting a strong performance in the fourth quarter of 2013 to achieve its yearly guidance.

Chrysler commenced producing the Jeep Cherokee on June 24, around a month later than initially planned, at its Toledo Assembly Complex. However, deliveries to dealers only commenced last week.

The carmaker renovated the unibody portion of the complex in August 2012 to prepare for the production of the Cherokee. At the start of production, Chrysler’s engineers worked to fix the software that controls the interacted between the Cherokee’s nine-speed transmission and its disconnecting drivetrain -- both firsts on the market.

The combination of the transmission, the drivetrain and the SUV’s two newly developed engines present a high level of complexity. Chrysler was able to get a software fix, but it has to test-drive each Cherokee coming off the assembly line to make sure the each vehicle is working as intended – causing delivery delays.

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