Fiat Chrysler Delays Grand Cherokee Redesign by a Year

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is delaying the redesign of the Jeep Grand Cherokee by at least a year to late 2018 or 2019 because the sport utility vehicle continues to attract buyers, brand chief Mike Manley said.

The mid-size SUV, Jeep’s top-selling model in the U.S. last year, was to be redone for late 2017. The Grand Cherokee will be refreshed for 2016, Manley told reporters Friday at the company’s Chelsea, Michigan, proving ground.

“If you look at the acceptance of Grand Cherokee in the marketplace today, it’s still incredibly strong,” he said. “The level of refresh we’re planning for next year, I think will continue that momentum. As I look out in terms of what we need to achieve for that vehicle, our view was it would be better to time it later.”

Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep and Ram brands have benefited from U.S consumers rekindling their love affair with SUVs and pickups amid low gasoline prices and interest rates. Grand Cherokee sales in 2014 rose 5.5 percent to 183,786, its best year since 2005. This year through May, the model’s deliveries gained 4.1 percent to 77,616, contributing to Jeep’s 20 percent surge.

Even as Jeep helps propel Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. sales gains, Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne has been pushing for the industry to consolidate. Marchionne, who is spending as much as $5 billion to resurrect the Alfa Romeo brand, is arguing that the industry’s profitability even in peak years doesn’t generate enough returns to support investment costs.

The decision may be tied to Fiat Chrysler’s cash needs, Joe Phillippi, president of consulting firm AutoTrends, said in an interview.

“They’ve had a lot of launches,” Phillippi said.

Beyond saying that the Grand Cherokee has been doing well enough to push back the redesign, Manley declined to elaborate on reasons for the delay.

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