DaimlerChrysler Corp. is looking to sell 200,000 new Jeep Liberty sport/utility vehicles (SUVs) annually, about 40% more than sales for the outgoing Cherokee it replaces.

The all-new '02 model small SUV was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. The Liberty goes on sale in the spring. Prices have not been announced but are expected to start at $18,000 and top out at $25,000 when equipped with a V-6 and 4-wheel drive.

DCC says it will build out the Cherokee by mid-2001. As of last month, DCC contended the Liberty would not replace the Cherokee, but rather be an addition to the Jeep line. The automaker sold 141,457 Cherokees in the U.S. in 2000.

The unibody Liberty is "the stiffest Jeep yet," according to Phil Jansen, director of Jeep Body. Here are the numbers: 45% better in bending and 30% better in torsion than the outgoing Cherokee.

Power comes from an entirely new engine lineup: DCC's 2.4L, twin-cam, 154-hp 4-cyl. or optional new 3.7L, single-overhead-cam, 210-hp V-6, derived from the new-for-'99 4.7L SOHC V-8 used in the Grand Cherokee. Either mill can be connected to a 5-speed manual, but an automatic is available only with the V-6. DCC expects 95% of production to swing to the V-6.

Production already is underway at the new $750 million Toledo, OH North assembly plant.