GRAND RAPIDS (Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press & WZZM)-- Jeep dealers watching this year's hot compact crossover market and wondering when they'd have the new Cherokee to sell can breath a little easier.
After at least a two-month delay, Chrysler started shipping the first 2014 Jeep Cherokees to dealers this week.
The launch of the Cherokee was delayed by issues with a new nine-speed transmission and the software that controls it. Jeep CEO Mike Manley said in June that the company was planning to begin shipping the vehicles by late August, but those plans were put on hold so the company could refine the calibration of the transmission.
Chrysler has continued to produce Jeep Cherokees in Toledo even while it scrambled to fix transmissions. As of Sept. 30, it had produced 18,849 Jeep Cherokees according to the company's production report, and Cherokees were parked around Toledo in holding areas.
Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said Tuesday that the company began shipping Cherokees to dealers that day, but declined to say if all the finished Cherokees have been cleared for delivery.
"Chrysler hopes the distinctive styling and cutting-edge technology on the Cherokee will set it apart from the competition, and has invested considerable time and money to make sure this important model is ready once it hits the market," said Tim Fleming, analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "So while the Cherokee delay certainly resulted in lost sales ... the vehicles can now be delivered to dealerships, and Jeep's sales numbers should jump back into positive territory."
The Cherokee replaces the Jeep Liberty; its success is essential to Jeep and parent company Chrysler.
WZZM 13 test drove the new Jeep Cherokee at Van Andel Flikkema Thursday.