Alan Castle couldn't wait for the diesel version of the 2005 Jeep Liberty to arrive at his local dealership in San Antonio. So he went online, found one at an Ohio dealership, flew there and bought it. Then he drove to Maryland to visit a friend before returning to Texas - a trip of about 2,200 miles.
For Castle, the adventure ended a 2½-year quest to own the Liberty CRD - short for common-rail diesel. Castle knew he was going to buy the vehicle the minute he heard about it on a TV show. He paid sticker price - a little more than $31,000 - for a loaded model.
"It's a fantastic vehicle," says Castle, a 55-year-old welder.
The Chrysler group hopes there are at least 4,999 other customers out there this year who share Castle's zeal. Five thousand Liberty CRDs are scheduled to be built this year.
The automaker started shipping the vehicle in late January. About 400 had been sold through February.
Chrysler group spokesman James Kenyon says data show the Liberty diesel lasts an average of seven days on a dealership lot. Without revealing specifics, Kenyon says that is "well below" the time it takes to sell a gasoline-powered version of the Liberty.
The Liberty CRD, with its 2.8-liter turbocharged engine, is EPA rated at 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Four-cylinder gasoline-powered versions of the Liberty are rated at 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway but can't tow as much as the diesel version.
The Chrysler group plans to tout the Liberty CRD's long distance between fill-ups, its best-in-class towing capability and fuel economy in print ads that will appear this month.
The base version of the Liberty diesel starts at $25,125, including freight. The base price of a gasoline-powered Liberty is $21,500, including freight.
The Chrysler group expects Midwestern and Western dealers to sell most of the vehicles because of the Liberty's nearly 500-mile range between fill-ups.
"I live in a territory where the Duramax, the PowerStroke and the Cummins are kings of the road," says Castle, referring to diesel-powered Big 3 pickups. "I don't believe diesels have a bad image anymore."
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