DETROIT - DaimlerChrysler took time out from its management crisis last week to announce the name of its new 2002 model Jeep: the Liberty.
Production of the sport-utility will start in spring 2001 in Toledo, Ohio. The vehicle will be in showrooms next summer.
The Liberty was conceived as a replacement for the 17-year-old Jeep Cherokee. But former executives say lots of Chrysler group programs, including the one for the Liberty, have drifted upward in cost. The company wanted a low-cost competitor for the Japanese and the new Ford Escape. With the Liberty priced higher than originally planned, DaimlerChrysler will keep producing the Cherokee as Jeep's entry-level sport-utility until at least 'mid-2002.' The Cherokee starts at about $20,000.
Spokesman Rick Deneau said pricing was not part of the decision to keep the Cherokee in production. Said Deneau: 'Ultimately, the market will decide how long it will stay.'