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Was Chrysler Expecting A Negative Reaction To The New Jeep Cherokee?

Illustration for article titled Was Chrysler Expecting A Negative Reaction To The New Jeep Cherokee?

After we exclusively revealed shots of the new Jeep Cherokee rolling off the assembly line, Chrysler released the official shots of the vehicle a few hours later and ahead of schedule. The reaction to the car — particularly its nose and headlights — hasn't been as positive as the Mopar folks probably wanted. But the curious thing is that Chrysler seemed to expect this. 

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Let's start with a post on Chrysler Communications' Facebook page, which was up last night but appears to have been taken down this morning. I grabbed this screenshot around 9 p.m. last evening. The gist of it? "Don't judge a book by its cover," which is kind of an odd sentiment to make in a statement to the public. 

Illustration for article titled Was Chrysler Expecting A Negative Reaction To The New Jeep Cherokee?
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Most of the comments on that post were pretty negative. The word "ugly" got tossed around a whole lot. More curiously, there's no mention of the Cherokee at all on the Jeep Facebook page, which seems strange considering what an important model this is for them. 

Chrysler made similar comments on their Twitter account last night that remain up. 

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Like I said, the language here is oddly anticipatory of negative reactions to the car. Or maybe they saw how people reacted in the comments to our story, or the Road & Track staff's horrified reaction, or any number of tweets about the car. It's possible they were already in some kind of damage control mode. 

Illustration for article titled Was Chrysler Expecting A Negative Reaction To The New Jeep Cherokee?
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The thing is, I feel the need to come in and stick up for the new Cherokee. Okay, those headlights aren't my favorite, but the rest of the vehicle looks pretty great, especially the way they've used the iconic seven-bar grille.

The car is radical, it's modern, it's different, and it evolves Jeep's styling beyond the same language they've been more or less using for decades. What did you want, another carbon copy of the old XJ Cherokee? That Jeep is excellent and much-loved, but it's time to try something new. And we've seen what happens what Jeep tries to copy that styling — we get stuff like the Liberty or the Patriot, and neither of those were particularly inspiring. 

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I'm not the only one who appreciates what they've done. Here's SRT boss Ralph Gilles' take on Twitter. To his credit, he's also been retweeting some of the negative remarks about the car as well. 

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 Paradigm shift indeed. Good for Chrysler for trying something different. 

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DISCUSSION

TheStigsRustbeltCousin
The Stig's Rustbelt Cousin

Keep in mind that most of the negative comments come from current Jeep owners who are also members of the Flat Earth Society, and are therefore unhappy with anything that involves change. Naturally, it may come as a surprise that car manufacturers don't design and market vehicles with them in mind, which makes them angry and bitter. However, for a company to be successful, they must attract new buyers from time to time, not pander to the ones who bought one or two of their products, 15-20 years before. 

Does the compact SUV market need an solid-axle, ladder-framed 4x4 with traditional styling? No, because no one's buying them. Off-road enthusiasts spend more on aftermarket parts for their rigs than they do on the shells that they bolt these  parts on to, which is why the best off-road vehicles are older and more rugged. The person who buys a new SUV/CUV thinks off-roading is when they have to drive down a gravel road that hasn't been graded recently. This new Cherokee will do that easily enough, and I'll bet it's better off-road than many would think, and most buyers will never come close to exploring its full capabilities. 

The styling may be slightly off-putting to some, but since it was designed by the same people who brought us the Grand Cherokee, once they drive it, they'll forget what it looks like on the outside.