Last year’s official unveiling of the latest iteration of the long-running Jeep Cherokee nameplate drew in heavy criticism – from fans, media and observers alike.
Enthusiasts around the world were shocked – and some appalled – by the exterior design of the model, which marks an unexpected departure from the brand’s design core values. The new Cherokee not only looked vastly different from the generations of the 1980s and 1990s, but also had nothing in common with the other models in the line-up.
“I almost canceled my Twitter account,” remembers Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s design chief. “It was controversial.”
But now, commenting the model’s success, the executive says the criticism has almost completely disappeared – as Jeep sold more than 114,000 during the first eight months of the year.
“We knew it wasn’t a dud,” Gilles says. “The incremental buyers, people who own Rav4’s and Honda CRV’s – they thought it was intriguing. And that interest has translated into actual sales.”
Chrysler wanted the new Jeep Cherokee to appeal to global buyers – and found it was also wanted back at home in the US – pent up demand was huge as the model had early production delays because of the new nine-speed automatic transmission. Now, the maker has returned to its roots with the very small Renegade, which is made to look like a reduced Wrangler.