Car haulers loaded with 2014 Jeep Cherokees stick out on the flat farmland like elephants on the savannah — lumbering behemoths easy to spot, even from miles away.
In ones and twos they rumble the 15 miles west from Chrysler Group’s massive Toledo, Ohio, assembly complex toward a former supplier-owned automotive testing center.
The Cherokees were due in dealerships almost two months ago, but have been held while Chrysler developed and installed new software to smooth out the way the engine, nine-speed transmission and innovative disconnecting drivetrain interact.
The detour between factory and dealership is part of the unusual validation process Chrysler is using to get its new mid-sized SUV to market. To make sure the powertrain is working right, the automaker has been test-driving each Cherokee before it is released for delivery.
The process has been cumbersome, but after many weeks of delay, sources said Jeep expects to begin delivering Cherokees over the next 10 days.
That’s good news for dealers.
“Demand has been good,” said Josh Towbin, co-owner of Towbin Automotive, which has a pair of Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram stores in Las Vegas. “We’ve been asked every single day when it’s going to arrive, and we’re going to take every one we can get.”
A Chrysler spokesman declined to comment on the updated delivery schedule, but dealers began seeing changes in the status of their overdue Cherokees last week, indicating they were on the way.
Chrysler has built about 23,000 Cherokees since production of the SUV began June 24.