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Chrysler To Roll Out New Grand Cherokee In July

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On: Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 9:58AM | By: John Welch

Chrysler To Roll Out New Grand Cherokee In July

The Italians are not blind to the situation they have bought into at Chrysler. Things, in their romantic eye, at least, are starting to improve. To quote Sergio Marchionne, "I feel a lot more comfortable today than I did 12 months ago -- by far."

Arguably the most successful, and well received late model Chrysler vehicle, the Jeep Grand Cherokee will lead the march toward profitability for Chrysler (good thing I typed that last bit of hog-wash -- I could never say the words "Profitable Chrysler" with a straight face . . .). The new Grand Cherokee will go into production in May, and will land in showrooms towards the beginning of July.

How does this SUV stack up against the competition? If that were still a relevant question, I would answer it. SUVs are dead, folks, you can no longer enhance your manhood with tall tires and too much lane-choking width. Chicks don't dig it as much as they used to. Sorry.

Since the Grand Cherokee occupies a weird niche of its own, let's just explore its merits solely as a viable product, one that may or may not help Chrysler succeed long enough to re-badge Lancias and then fail all over again . ..

It isn't all sunshine and roses for the new Grand Cherokee or Chrysler. According to 'ole Serge, the federally mandated arbitration process for rejected Chrysler dealers has frustrated efforts to improve the dealer network. Whatever that means. "It effectively stopped the reconstitution of the retail network," Marchionne said. Oh! Okay, now I understand . . . (sic).

The presser from which Marchionne was speaking happened to be interrupted by a lone patriot, whining about tax-payer money and Obama and blah blah blah. Note to self-taught political wizards: there is this thing called Status-Quo. The original bailout is the only one worth bitching about- at least our auto companies produce something, whereas AIG just takes your money. And set the Status-Quo that allowed Chrysler to receive its bail-out (sorry, "bankruptcy") in the first place. Dummies.

Ahem, weren't we talking about some car or something?! Oh yeah, the brand spankin' new Jeep Grand Cherokee! Another slop-job riding on an ancient Mercedes platform? Only time will tell, and yes, it is riding on a Mercedes platform, but one that is slightly less than "ancient".

The mighty G-C shares its bones with the oft-praised, yet four-year-old MLK chassis- the same basis for the GLK as well. This is a good, stiff unibody, but I would love to know what Chrysler had to pay to get the parts bin from its former overlord, Daimler. A deal done before the split, I assume . ..

The truck (can we still call these things 'trucks'?) is handsome enough, with a cabin that appears to be of a higher grade than the usual Formica and plasticine Chrysler interior. It also looks roomier than Grand Cherokees of the past- "shoulder room" not being found in any previous Grand Cherokee, ever.

This sucker goes into production the first of May, a welcome sign that Chrysler's veritable "product drought" may soon be over. And what of that nasty phrase "Operating Profit"? Peek at the numbers: Chrysler is on track to break even on an operating basis in 2010 and currently holds more than $5 billion in cash. In addition, the company's break-even point was substantially lower than most analysts estimated.

If those estimates are correct, and Fiat begins selling its fancy little runabouts at Chrysler dealerships, and we actually buy them, then Mr. Marchionne has earned himself a little breathing room . . . especially compared to twelve months ago . . .

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