TOLEDO, Ohio -- Chrysler has delayed the launch of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee by a couple of months as it fine-tunes the production process at its revamped Toledo Assembly Complex.
Union officials cite fit-and-finish issues at the plant's new body shop, and company sources say engineers continue to tweak the performance of the nine-speed transmission.
"September, October, November is where it's going to start contributing to our sales," Reid Bigland, head of U.S. and Canadian sales for Chrysler, told reporters at a press event this month.
Previously, Chrysler had said high-volume sales of the SUV would start in the third quarter. A company spokeswoman reiterated today that the Cherokee will begin contributing to sales in September.
The Ohio complex received a $500 million renovation to build the Cherokee. It has been conducting pilot builds for weeks to address quality issues before production of salable units begins, union and company officials said.
Production of salable units originally had been scheduled to start in late May, company executives said earlier this year.
The five-seat SUV is the first Jeep built on a Fiat platform.
"This is an all-new vehicle being built in an all-new body shop on a whole new process, so we will continue to have suppliers in the plant to address issues and tweak processes as we ramp up," Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said.
Bigland said Chrysler's decision not to launch the Cherokee until it was ready is a sign that the company has changed.
"With the launch of all of our products under the new Chrysler versus the old Chrysler, we're extremely cautious with what goes out to the market, particularly when it comes to new product," Bigland said. "We've only got that one chance to make a positive first impression."
The delays will make it more difficult for Jeep to match the global sales record of 701,626 units it set in 2012. Jeep boss Mike Manley said his brand was counting on the Cherokee to cover the lost sales from the former Liberty, which Chrysler stopped building in August 2012.