It's a Wet Debut for New Jeep Liberty

NEW YORK A sunny day would be best for an outdoor demonstration of a new folding canvas-roof option on the redesigned '08 Jeep Liberty. But it was raining hard when Chrysler Group unveiled the new vehicle

NEW YORK — A sunny day would be best for an outdoor demonstration of a new folding canvas-roof option on the redesigned '08 Jeep Liberty.

But it was raining hard when Chrysler Group unveiled the new vehicle and showed how its new “Sky Slider” feature worked at a faux-rock display outside the Javits convention center during the New York International Auto Show.

“I'll keep it short,” says Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president-product development, standing under an umbrella and describing the new Liberty as “reinvented from the ground up.”

It's bigger and intended to look more masculine, say Chrysler officials, taking care to be politically correct.

“We made it more traditional looking, which makes it look more masculine,” Klegon tells Ward's in the dryness of a display tent. “We wanted to make it more recognizable as a Jeep.”

First introduced in 2002, the Liberty has 60% female buyers. Making the vehicle look more manly is not intended to go after more male buyers while sacrificing sales to women, Chrysler executives say.

They point to research indicating an auto maker doesn't lose women customers by designing a vehicle that appeals to men. “But the opposite isn't true; you can lose men by designing a vehicle that appeals to women,” a Chrysler executive says.

“It's hard to pick customers,” Klegon says. “You tend to find out who you attract.”

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