Sunday 7 September 2008

Dodge Nitro vs Jeep Cherokee/Liberty. Only one will survive!

Chrysler LLC officials confirmed that they will axe either the Jeep Cherokee/Liberty or the Dodge Nitro SUV by the 2012 model year or 2011.

Steven Landry, vice president of North American sales, told industry analysts that the slow-selling Nitro and its near-twin, the Jeep Liberty, would be merged behind one nameplate within three years.

"If you put sales of Liberty and Nitro together, it's doing what we want it to do," Mr. Landry said while discussing the poor August sales of the two vehicles. "As we move toward 2012, we won't have this dual branding," Mr. Landry said, citing a previously announced effort to scale back the car-maker's offerings. "That's when we'll just come back with one branded body of those particular vehicles, instead of two."

Experts generally expect the Nitro would be the vehicle to be dumped and, in the past, said they anticipated it would happen before 2012. Cherokee/Liberty's 4,654 sales were down 14% from August 2007, but up 24% from July in the U.S. Nitro's 1,991 sales fell 71% in August from the same period a year ago, but were 21% higher than in July in the U.S. For the year, Chrysler has sold 49,330 Cherokees/Libertys, down 20% from a year ago, and 27,540 Nitros, down 44% from last year.

Chrysler officials this year rolled out Project Genesis, an effort to eliminate duplicate vehicles within their product lineup to focus each of the company's three brands: Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge. The project would trim its dealer network to get them to sell all three brands.

Denny Amrhein, co-owner of GroganTowne Chrysler-Dodge, said the Nitro is far more likely to be eliminated than the Cherokee/Liberty, but the effect will be muted if Chrysler is successful in its efforts to combine dealerships.

"I think 2012 is a pretty good time frame for what they plan to do with those two cars," he said. "It's going to be fine as long as you have the dealers with all three lines, but it will be hard if you don't, because you can't sell the vehicles if you don't have the product."

Officials with United Auto Workers Local 12 could not be reached for comment yesterday. About 2,200 UAW members work at the Toledo Jeep Assembly plant producing the Cherokee/Liberty and Nitro. It is unclear what ending one of the vehicles would do to the plant or to employment, as UAW leaders have pushed for making another vehicle at that location.

Introduced in late 2006 as the brainchild of Chrysler's former German owners, the Dodge-badged Jeep knockoff received a disappointing welcome from consumers, selling just 74,285 units in 2007. It is built on the same line as its sister SUV, the Cherokee/Liberty.

Mr. Landry said that the inventory of unsold Nitros had fallen to 12,408 units, a number that would translate to about a 194-day supply.

After the conference call, Chrysler spokesman Stuart Schorr verified what Mr. Landry had said, but sought to clarify the comments.

"That means we could take out products that overlap, add products where we don't compete today, and make sure new products and new generation of current products have distinct customer targets," he said. "We have not made any announcements specific to eliminating vehicles or nameplates."

Chrysler reported that sales of the Toledo-built Jeep Wrangler declined 32% during August to 6,469 units, and were down 30% for the year to 59,005.

Like other car-makers struggling with car sales, Chrysler sweetened incentives at dealerships to lure potential customers to purchase vehicles or to lease them through third-party lenders.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I like the Nitro better, although both SUV's are good looking. Although Dodge sales in the UK are rising as you said and Liberty sales are unknown, who knows which one they'll keep.

Laguna said...

Because the Cherokee/Libery recently launched in the UK, indeed, sales figures remain a mystery.

Most of the Dodge sales have probably gone to the Caliber hatchback and Avenger sedan. The Journey got released as few days ago now, so hopefully this could boost sales further.

Scott said...

Well, actually I like the Liberty better. Been a Jeep guy for a long time, but if I were to say one thing, I would rather them keep the Nitro to compete with the xB, and get rid of the Jeep Liberty name. I would then modify a Patriot body onto a Liberty platform and call it a Cherokee, thus also eliminating the Patriot sort of. In the end, no liberty or patriot, but a cherokee mixing the two since the patiot looks more Cherokee-like and the Liberty off-roads more cherokee-like.

Laguna said...


I like both SUV's. The Nitro is attention grabbing while the Cherokee/Liberty is elegant - in its own way!

You'd have a mid-sized SUV competing with a Scion xB?

I agree with you when you say use a Patriot bodyshell on a Cherokee/Liberty platform but I'd keep the Patriot as it sells well in international markets, unlike the Compass

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