Chrysler has encountered more than a few obstacles over the past two years, but the automaker's biggest challenge remains its own survival. In order to survive—and thrive—the company is going to need to prove that its products can be class-competitive. If the products on hand can't lure buyers into showrooms, then the Chrysler/Fiat alliance is doomed.
Thanks to the bankruptcy and a federal government bailout, plus the aforementioned alliance with Fiat, Chrysler has a clean slate with which to start from. However, the very public nature of the company's fall into and climb out of bankruptcy means that all eyes are watching as it brings new product to market.
Imagine then, the pressure on Chrysler's Jeep division. It has the distinction of launching the company's first post-bankruptcy product: The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. While it's important to note that a redesigned Grand Cherokee was in development long before Chrysler entered bankruptcy—the 2011 Grand Cherokee was first previewed at the 2009 New York Auto Show, a month or so before Chrysler began bankruptcy proceedings—there's no denying that both the automotive industry and the general public have been waiting to see what kind of job Jeep has done with the big SUV.
The pressure on Jeep isn't just from those who want a return on the investment from the American taxpayers. Other interested parties include Chrysler's dealer network, which is desperate for a new, strong mainstream product not named "Ram," the ever-curious and ever-insatiable automotive press and, of course, the mid-size SUV buyer.
More: 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review: First Drive