Monday, January 7, 2008

Chrysler confident of Liberty redesign despite slow start

Here are sales results for the Toledo-built Liberty and its main competitors. Figures are 4x4 base price, units sold in 2007, and the change from 2006:

Honda CR-V ($21,900), 219,160, 28.5%
Toyota RAV4 ($23,715), 172,752, 13.2%
Ford Escape ($19,770), 165,596, 5.2%
Jeep Liberty ($21,940), 92,105, -31%
Saturn Vue ($21,875), 84,767, -4.3%
Kia Sportage ($20,170), 49,393, 33%
Jeep Wrangler ($18,660), 119,243, 49%

SOURCE: Companies

The redesigned Jeep Liberty finished a distant fourth in North American sales of comparable sport utility vehicles in 2007, but Chrysler LLC officials say they are still bullish on the future of the Toledo-built 4x4.

The Liberty, which underwent a significant redesign for the 2008 model, sold 92,105 units during 2007, according to sales figures released this week.

By comparison, the Honda CR-V sold 219,160 units, the Toyota RAV4 sold 172,752 units, and the Ford Escape 165,596 units, those companies said. The Liberty finished ahead of the Saturn Vue, which sold 84,767 vehicles, the Toledo-built Dodge Nitro, which sold 74,825, and the Kia Sportage, which sold 49,393.

Chrysler executives were unconcerned this week about the Liberty sales,
saying they expected them to improve as the new model penetrates the market.

When asked why Liberty didn't fare better given Chrysler's investment, they said
the new model may have been impacted by the company's simultaneous rollout of its new line of minivans.

They also cited the slow production rollout of Liberty's Sky Slider sunroof system as an explanation for the weaker numbers.

'We have orders for [models equipped with Sky Sliders] that we haven't been able to build,' said Jim Press, Chrysler's vice chairman and president.

Sales of the iconic Jeep Wrangler went to a stratospheric level this year, shooting up almost 50 percent to 119,243 units for 2007 on the strength of the company's spring 2007 introduction of the first-ever four-door version, the Wrangler Unlimited.

Nearly six of every 10 Wranglers sold were four-door versions.

"They're popular. We get a lot of requests for them," said Dave Doster, the Jeep sales manager for Yark Automotive Group, which sold a record 254 Jeeps last month. "They did a great job with the Wrangler. It's going to be popular for a long time."

Toyota, maker of the Wrangler's closest market competitor, the FJ Cruiser, did not report total sales figures for the vehicle this week.

However, through November, the FJ Cruiser was selling at slightly above the previous year's pace, when 56,225 units were sold in North America.

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