The launch of DaimlerChrysler's new '02 Jeep sport/utility vehicle, slated to replace the Cherokee, has been delayed. DCC says the move is to maximize sales of the current Cherokee and not due to major engineering problems with the new model.

The delay is characterized as “minor” in length. Officials will not put a date on the launch but admit it has been “re-timed.”

The extra time will be used for workforce training to man the new $600-million Toledo, OH, facility which is reportedly on schedule, under budget, and running pilot bodies through its body shop (see Ward's Automotive Reports — May 29, '00 p. 5).

The delay of the new SUV coincides with a delay in the buildout of the 17-year-old Cherokee. Cherokee originally was slated to build out in March '01. That date has been extended by seven months, says Thomas Sidlik, a DaimlerChrysler Corp. executive vice president and general manager of Jeep operations.

Others tell Ward's the date is somewhat fluid and will likely be later than October 2001.

“We don't launch anything before its time,” Mr. Sidlik says in an interview with Wards. “The old Cherokee is selling very, very well. We have extended the old Cherokee by seven months. Like we said, people love it.”

Cherokee sales are tracking higher than the record 199,333 sold worldwide in 1999.

There will be a period of overlap during which time the two Toledo facilities will make their respective SUVs. “We will have two vehicles out at the same time,” says Mr. Sidlik. He could not say how long that will be.