It's tough to blame Jeep for not grasping the concept of a crossover when its parent company was having a tough time figuring out how to be an automaker.
The Liberty first came into the world as a replacement for the popular Cherokee and a small SUV version of Jeep's iconic Wrangler. The Liberty and Wrangler basically shared the same face for much of the 2000s, when the Liberty's popularity was at its peak.After 2004, when the Liberty had sold a record 167,400 vehicles in the U.S., the bottom dropped out. As competitors such as the RAV-4 and CR-V got more fuel efficient and SUVs came down off their trucks and hooked themselves to car platforms, the slow-changing Liberty saw sales slide from 166,900 in 2005 to just 92,000 as the recession took hold in 2007. Chrysler would get around to making the Liberty a true crossover in 2008, when it put the vehicle on a Dodge Nitro platform, but just about nobody enjoyed that little tweak just a year after Jeep introduced the smaller, more efficient Compass. With Chrysler bankrupt, bailed out and about to be bought by Fiat, the Liberty's sales bottomed out at 43,503 in 2009. When Fiat took over in 2011, the Dodge Nitro model that gave the Liberty its backbone was among the first vehicles cut from Chrysler's roster. With Jeep also trimming models under Fiat's watch, the Liberty's days were numbered. The 2013 Liberty was the last and was replaced by the 2014 Jeep Cherokee -- which is basically a Dodge Dart with more cargo capacity. The Liberty didn't have the ground clearance to be a real off-road SUV and didn't have the fuel economy to fit in with all the new fuel-efficient grocery getters. As the Cherokee, it's a slightly less awkward midsized crossover that now fits nicely into the brand lineup. As the Liberty, it was just never going to work.
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