The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk picks up the maker's rugged Trail Rated badge.

In an unexpected move, Chrysler is slashing production of the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee, idling about 500 workers for at least the next two weeks.

The Cherokee brings back an old name for a new vehicle, the 2014 crossover-utility vehicle replacing the old Jeep Liberty that has been out of production for nearly a year as Chrysler invested millions in retooling its big assembly line in Toledo, Ohio.

“We have been producing vehicles since the end of June and have now built the critical number of vehicles we need to stock dealerships once containment is released,” Chrysler said in a statement e-mailed to TheDetroitBureau.com. “We will temporarily idle the second shift so as not to put additional strain on our logistics partners to get these vehicles into the hands of customers as quickly and efficiently as possible upon release.”

(Chrysler files for IPO. Click Here for the complete story.)

The press release suggests that the issue is based on shipping issues, rather than problems with the 2014 Jeep Cherokee itself – though CEO Sergio Marchionne noted in July that Chrysler was delaying shipment of the vehicles already built due to problems with the Cherokee’s new 9-speed automatic transmission.

Chrysler never fully explained that issue, though it appeared to be working to find the best balance between comfort and fuel-economy using the industry’s first 9-speed gearbox. The problem forced it to delay the first media test drive of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee for nearly a month.

(For TheDetroitBureau.com’s first drive of the Cherokee, Click Here.)

The temporary shutdown affects about 500 workers on the second shift at the Toledo Assembly Complex, though Chrysler will keep some on the job performing test drives of the new crossover-utility vehicles – which might suggest that it is still not fully satisfied with the earlier fix of the Cherokee’s transmission.

But a report in the Toledo Blade newspaper quotes a union official who insisted the production cuts are “not (due to) a problem with the vehicle itself.”

Chrysler is clearly being cautious with the launch of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. The old Liberty was a relatively marginal and low-volume product. With the new crossover Chrysler hopes to become a much more mainstream player in the fast-growing compact CUV segment.

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