No diesel Cherokee without Grand Cherokee sales boost, Jeep brand chief says

Manley on diesels: "I think what we’re going to see is a continued increase in market acceptance."
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CHELSEA, Mich. -- Jeep brand head Mike Manley says sales of diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokees in the United States would have to nearly double before the brand would consider offering a domestic diesel-powered version of the smaller Jeep Cherokee.

Speaking to reporters at a media day here at Chrysler Group’s Chelsea Proving Grounds, Manley said diesel now accounts for about 8 percent of Grand Cherokee sales in the United States.

Jeep began selling a diesel Grand Cherokee last year, powered by the VM Motori 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine. Though the diesel Grand Cherokee sells at a $4,500 premium, it also offers up to 30 mpg highway.

“I think what we’re going to see is a continued increase in market acceptance. The initial dealer take was higher, and now we’re seeing the market settle down to about 8 percent,” Manley said. “That will, over time, continue to grow.”

Ram began selling versions of its Ram 1500 light-duty pickup earlier this year powered with the same 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel. The Ram diesels have proven popular since arriving in dealerships in March, and Manley said Jeep is, so far, not getting any pressure from Ram to give up diesels slated for the Grand Cherokee to use in Ram pickups.

Manley said bringing a diesel-powered Cherokee, which it now sells in Europe, to the United States is more complicated than was the decision to test the diesel waters with Grand Cherokee. In Europe, the Cherokee is powered by a 2.8-liter inline-four diesel.

“Cherokee is slightly different because of its weight and size. When I think about bringing Cherokee diesel here, I would like to see Grand Cherokee diesel get much higher than 8 percent,” Manley said. “It would have to be in mid-double digits.”

Jeep fans have long requested diesel powertrains because of their high torque at low rpms, making them perfect for off-road performance.

“You never can tell, really. We’ve obviously invested in diesel for Europe. I never rule anything out with diesel for the Jeep brand,” Manley said.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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