The Jeep Cherokee Is Dead Except Jeep Says It’s Not
When Jeep closed down its Illinois assembly plant where the Cherokee is built, that killed the historic run of the midsize SUV. It makes sense, and yet, it doesn’t make sense to kill off one of the most well-known Jeeps. The platform is old, and sales have steadily declined for years. Yet, it has strong brand equity which is an incredibly difficult achievement. Now, Jeep is finally speaking up about what is going on with the Cherokee.
What is Jeep saying now?
“We have plans for that important vehicle in that important segment, which we will reveal in due time,” a spokesperson told Motor1. So rather than killing the Cherokee, Jeep, or rather its parent company Stellantis, has chosen to stop making it for now while it shuffles its cards, so to speak.
Transitioning to electrification is costly and disruptive. Stellantis must make this sea-change across 14 different brands. And to do so, it needs to change those vehicles with the highest potential for sales and profit as quickly as possible. So while the Cherokee should be, and really is, an important brand within the brand, it has to wait its turn.
Does the Jeep Cherokee sell well?
Leading up to the pause in Cherokee production, Jeep started pulling back on options and trims. Last year, it dropped a number of Cherokee trims, though it did add an 80th Anniversary trim. Then, starting off in 2023, it killed the V6 Pentastar engine option and two more trims.
Starting in 2013, yearly Cherokee sales were around 200,000. It was able to hold onto that abundant production through 2019. Then sales took a dramatic turn down. In 2021, 89,000 were sold, and last year that number fell further to barely 40,000. And with the Grand Cherokee above it and the Compass and Renegade below it, maybe the need for a model stuffed between them has disappeared
Combine that with the fact its Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant is over 50 years old, and it began to paint the reality of what Jeep really had, an old facility manufacturing an old product in limited numbers. Its final KL generation began production in 2014, so it is a 10-year-old platform.
Will Jeep keep the name?
Finally, there is the thorny issue of its name. For years the Cherokee Nation of Native Americans has asked that the Cherokee name be retired. In February 2021, Cherokee Nation principal chief Chuck Hoskin said, “I think we’re in a day and age in this country where it’s time for both corporations and team sports to retire the use of Native American names, images, and mascots from their products, team jerseys and sports in general.”
Jeep announced it wouldn’t drop the Cherokee brand. It said that the name is to “honor and celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess, and pride.” But it is curious that this is the year sales began to tank. At the time Jeep said it would listen to the Cherokee Nation’s concerns. And while sports teams have mostly honored those concerns retiring Native American names, Jeep has been mostly silent.
So we expect that as Jeep rolls out its electrified versions, the picture will become clearer. If the automaker does choose to build a new Cherokee, expect it to debut in 2025 or 2026. And expect it to be an EV.