Key Chrysler Jeep dealers are being given wider territories as the network is trimmed to reflect present sales levels. Simon Elliott, Chrysler Jeep UK managing director, said the reorganisation, which has returned the network to profit after several poor years, largely consisted of natural wastage.
“Over the past 18 months we've had eight dealers who have decided not to continue with Chrysler Jeep – we haven't replaced them,” he said.
“Instead we have given adjacent dealerships a larger territory with more customer potential and less competition. It's a natural evolution.”
Chrysler Jeep now has 98 dealers, still too high for current sales, but the company is forecasting growth over the next few years.
It expects to sell 20,000 cars this year, up 20% on 2000, with a 15% increase in 2002 to 23,000 units, fuelled by the launch of the new Cherokee.
Mr Elliott said Cherokee would sell 5,000 next year, targeting Land Rover Freelander and other 'soft roaders'. Steve Gray, UK general marketing manager for Chrysler and Jeep, said: “Cherokee is an all-American package which provides a particularly attractive alternative to Freelander owners.”
Cherokee, on UK sale from January, comes with 2.4-litre and 3.7-litre V6 petrol engines and a new 2.5-litre commonrail diesel unit. The entry-level 2.4-litre Sport is priced £17,995, rising to £23,145 for the 3.7 V6 Limited.
Chrysler Jeep's US parent is planning more models with right-hand drive markets in mind. The forthcoming 2dr Crossfire coupe, shown at Detroit this year, and the 300M, due in 2004, will be built in right-hand drive.