Chrysler has been feverishly refreshing or replacing most — if not all — of its product portfolios over the past several months, but two models remain relatively untouched: the Jeep Liberty and its twin, the Dodge Nitro. Both soldier on unchanged, but not for long.
In an interview with Automotive News, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne called out the Liberty and Nitro, both of which ride upon the KK platform, as “the most significant hole in our product portfolio.” The sales figures seem to back up those numbers. In 2010, Chrysler sold 49,564 Libertys, while Nitro sales only amounted to 22,618 units.
Those figures pale in comparison to other vehicles lumped into the small SUV category — despite being much different (and more akin to Jeep’s Patriot and Compass models), the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V led the segment with sales of 191,026 and 203,714 vehicles, respectively.
The Liberty itself is all but confirmed to receive a replacement, but the Nitro appears to still be in limbo. When Chrysler rolled out its ambitious five-year product plan back in 2009, it noted a replacement for the Nitro was “under consideration.”
That appears to remain the case now — Marchionne notes a replacement is being developed, but isn’t sure if it needs to be replaced with a Dodge-branded SUV. Chrysler is currently conducting consumer clinics on the proposed vehicles, and a final decision on the pair — especially critical for the Nitro successor — will be made within the next 40 days. If approved, one or both of the vehicles may reach the market in 2013.
As consumers increasingly favor smaller crossovers and SUVs, both Jeep and Dodge alike may have more success pursuing smaller car-based offerings. Unsurprisingly, such a model is certainly in Jeep’s future. Chrysler’s five-year plan shows both the Patriot and Compass being replaced by a single vehicle in 2013, likely based off Fiat’s C-Evo platform (which also underpins the Lancia Delta and Fiat Punto). A Jeep offering built from a Fiat B-segment subcompact architecture is also in the cards, but will likely be sold only outside North America.