The Jeep Cherokee Is Dead After 49 Years
One of Jeep’s most famous names may be just a memory. What comes next?
The Jeep Cherokee has been discontinued after 49 years in production, a Jeep official confirmed to The Drive. It brings to an end an SUV that not only made Jeep what it is today but also changed automobiles forever, and raises the thorny question of how Jeep will follow it up in the ultra-competitive midsize SUV segment—which the automaker claims it won't be abandoning.
The Cherokee started production in 1974 as a two-door SUV based on the Wagoneer, before switching to a unibody platform in 1984 as one of the last vehicles AMC would introduce. It was a smash hit; some 3 million were built, and the SUV remained in production in the U.S. until 2001. License-built versions were made in China up until 2014. It served as the template for the modern unibody SUV, helping popularize a body style that is now a bestseller around the world. It's hard to overstate just how significant the original Cherokee was.
But all dynasties end, and after multiple generations that failed to capture the success of the original (including some sold as the Liberty), the Jeep Cherokee's time has come to an end. Jeep pared back the 2023 Cherokee's trim range after sales fell off a cliff with the SUV approaching a decade on the market. On March 1, Stellantis idled Belvidere Assembly in Illinois where the Cherokee is made, and that production freeze may become permanent as Stellantis draws nearer to negotiations with United Auto Workers later this year over the plant's future. A spokesperson for Stellantis said the automaker is committed to the segment going forward, but it's unclear whether its next midsize SUV will bear the Cherokee label, or when it might arrive.
The Cherokee's larger progeny, the Grand Cherokee, was renewed for 2022 and carries on the name—if not the direct vehicle lineage. With its plug-in hybrid drivetrain, it also better fits with Jeep's increasing emphasis on hybrids and EVs. It's unclear whether the Grand Cherokee nameplate may too be on the chopping block in a few years, as the SUV's namesake the Cherokee Nation asked Jeep to "retire" the name in 2021.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with clarification from Stellantis.
Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: email@example.com