2014 Grand Cherokee leads Chrysler's diesel push
Manley: “The ideal vehicle”
LOS ANGELES -- Chrysler Group will use the diesel-powered 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee to gauge whether to offer diesels in other vehicles.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee is scheduled to debut at the Detroit auto show in January and go on sale in the first quarter of 2013. In addition to a new fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission, the SUV will have an optional 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel engine from VM Motori, which is owned by Fiat.
"Grand Cherokee, for me, is the ideal vehicle" to bring diesel back to the United States, Jeep brand head Mike Manley said last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show. He said the diesel powertrain was suited to the SUV because of its low-end torque and high fuel economy. But U.S. emissions standards have hindered diesel offerings.
Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne wants to offer diesels in more Chrysler vehicles. He said recently that the upcoming Grand Cherokee will blaze a trail for broader U.S. acceptance of diesels.
"I think it will give diesel, finally, the proper chance to compete," Marchionne said last month. "People have the wrong perception of what diesel is like."
Jeep already sells a Grand Cherokee powered by the 3.0-liter VM diesel outside the United States. The 241-hp diesel, teamed with a five-speed automatic, is rated at the U.S. equivalent of 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway in the European test cycle.
For comparison, the most fuel-efficient Grand Cherokee now on sale in the United States is powered by Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and is rated at 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Jeep has offered diesels in the United States before, most recently Jeep Libertys powered with 2.8-liter VM Motori diesel engines in 2005 and 2006, when Chrysler was owned by Daimler. Jeep discontinued the program in 2007 because of tougher emissions standards.
But Manley said owners of diesel-powered Libertys "are waiting for diesel to come back" to upgrade to a Grand Cherokee.
"I think we're going to be surprised at the demand for that vehicle," Manley said. "Even now, before we've even launched it, I'm getting notes" from dealers asking when it will arrive.
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