NEW YORK – Putting a Hemi engine in the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee should power a V-8 take-rate hike in the redesigned SUV slated for sale later this year, a top executive tells Ward’s following its world debut at the New York auto show here.

The 5.7L Hemi V-8 serves as one of three powerplants, including two V-8s, to be available in the ’05 Grand Cherokee. It marks the first time a Jeep product has received the heavily-hyped Hemi that has proven to be a popular engine option in other vehicles. (See related story: Hemi Take Rates Soaring)

An updated version of the Grand Cherokee’s 4.7L V-8 and a tuned version of the Jeep Liberty’s 3.7L V-6 (replacing the 4L inline 6-cyl.) fill out the powertrain options. (See related story: Grand Cherokee Grand Finale to Product Blitz)

Current take rates are split 50/50 between the V-8 and I-6 on the ’04 Grand Cherokee, says Eric Ridenour, Chrysler executive vice president-product development.

Chrysler anticipates more V-8 sales with the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee.

“I don’t know exactly what the mix will be, but it will go a little heavier since we have two V-8s instead of one.”

Ridenour says regardless of what Grand Cherokee’s Hemi and total V-8 take rates turn out to be, the auto maker can dip into its seemingly endless supply of Hemis to meet demand.

Ridneour also says Chrysler is considering expanding its diesel offerings to more Jeep models than the Liberty, which bowed here with a U.S. diesel powertrain.

The auto maker will begin measuring receptivity to the European-built diesel powertrain in the small SUV once it goes on sale by year’s end.

“(Exposure) is the only reason why we’re doing it,” says Ridenour. “It’s not necessarily that we’d only look at Jeep, obviously we’d look across Chrysler, but we think that diesels and Jeep are a natural pairing so that’s why we’re starting that way.”

Ridenour’s comments echo those of CEO Dieter Zetsche, who told Ward’s last month that Jeep was a logical place for another diesel product for the U.S. (See related story: Next PT Could Use C/D Platform)

The auto maker is ready to sell as many diesel engines in the U.S. as the market demands, says Ridenour. Chrysler Group has not released diesel sales targets.

jstoll@primediabusiness.com