Jeep to end Liberty production Thursday

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

If you're a fan of the Jeep Liberty, pay your respects by removing your hat and taking a moment of silence on Thursday. Jeep will be pulling the plug on the once-popular SUV, ending an 11-year run.

The old Toledo North assembly plant will shutter Liberty production before it sets up the line for the model's replacement, another unibody crossover SUV to be based on 2013 Dodge Dart platform architecture. Just how capable this Liberty replacement will be off-road will remain to be seen, but early information about its powertrain are certainly intriguing, as at least one trim level will feature a new 3.2-litre V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.

While reports have stated that the Liberty replacement might not be as capable off-road as the Liberty due to its unibody design, it should be stressed that the Liberty was also a unibody design, as was the old Cherokee it effectually replaced. Some unibody designs have earned their 4x4 credentials, like Jeep's own Grand Cherokee, while others, such as Nissan's upcoming 2013 Pathfinder probably won't be able to trek the wild yonder as well as its predecessor, but more due to the inclusion of fuel saving technologies like its Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) than its new unibody construction.

The trend toward unibody designs has much to do with fuel economy, what many would say was the Liberty's Achilles heel, but it was the outgoing Liberty's powertrain that should be blamed in this respect. Where the original Liberty was offered with a four-cylinder gasoline engine in base trim and later in its production an optional turbo-diesel along with its optional gasoline-powered V6, the second-generation Liberty only came with a fairly large displacement V6. But the real reason Jeep is ending production is that the SUV has become redundant.

Oddly, while the original Liberty was a replacement for the Cherokee, it was actually inspired by the vehicle that put the nail in its coffin. The Jeep Dakar Concept, which was little more than a four-door Wrangler, was a big hit when it hit the 1997 auto show scene, but rather than stretching the iconic Jeep's wheelbase and adding an extra set of rear doors, Jeep showed up soon after with an SUV that combined Wrangler styling with much greater refinement, offering strong off-road capability yet decent on-road ride and handling. Over its 11-year tenure the Liberty went through one major redesign, which saw it grow slightly in size and lose some of its off-road prowess, although it still remained more capable off the beaten track than the compact Compass and Patriot models that took over as Jeep's entry-level models. The redesign also spawned a Dodge twin named Nitro, which was discontinued last year. The same year as the Liberty's redesign, 2007, saw the introduction of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, which was an immediate bestseller and continues to this day as Jeep's most popular model, literally pushing the Liberty out of the picture.

With the Liberty now effectively replaced by the Wrangler Unlimited, Jeep hopes a more car-like replacement will help the brand grow by attracting customers not currently being served. If the much-lauded new Dodge Dart is any example of what lays in store as far as on-road dynamics and interior quality go, urban Jeep buyers have something to look forward to.

Workers in the Liberty's assembly plant will not only be looking forward to the new SUV, but they'll likely be breathing a collective sigh of relief considering the tough times the auto industry has going through in recent years. The new model not only secures their jobs, but will also add to their seniority. Currently the Liberty's plant only requires a single shift, but Jeep will add a second shift with approximately 1,100 workers to its Toledo Assembly Complex in order to meet expected demand.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Dodge, Jeep, Liberty, Wrangler Unlimited, Dart, Dakar,

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page