Jeep's not-quite-iconic Liberty SUV is going to the great trail in the sky for a while. The Chrysler Group announced that Liberty production will end next week and the SUV's Toledo, Ohio plant will be idled shortly thereafter.
The Liberty was introduced in 2001 as a replacement for the beloved Cherokee (the Liberty actually wore Cherokee badges outside the U.S.), and yearly sales peaked shortly thereafter: Jeep sold 171,212 Liberties in 2002. Sales were brisk throughout the mid-2000s, but slumped as gas prices climbed in 2007. Sales in 2009 were the lowest on record, with 43,503 Liberties finding new homes that year. Jeep sold 42,339 Liberties in the first half of this year.
But it's the end of the line for the Liberty: production of the mid-size Jeep SUV will end at Chrysler's Toledo North Assembly plant on August 16th, and Toledo North's employees will reportedly be laid off for what Chrysler calls "several months."
The end of the line…for a while, that is. As we've previously reported, Jeep is hard at work finishing a replacement for the Liberty that ride atop Chrysler/Fiat's Compact U.S. Wide platform (just like the next Compass). The new model will ditch the old model's outdated 3.7-liter V-6 engine and four-speed auto for a possible 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6, nine-speed automatic transmission, or even a turbocharged engine like the one powering the new Dodge Dart Rallye.
Chrysler says that idling Toledo North will give it time to retool the plant before the Liberty's replacement's mid-2013 release date. During that time, Chrysler also hopes to expand the plant with an upgraded body shop and a new metrology center to ensure that cars don't leave the plant with panel gaps or other issues. When all is said and done, Chrysler hopes to add another shift to Toledo North, increasing the total employment at Toledo North and Toledo Supplier Park (which makes the Jeep Wrangler) to 2800.
Jeep is still mum about when we'll see the Liberty replacement, but a 2013 Detroit Auto Show release is likely.
Source: Detroit News