The Grand Cherokee was the first Chrysler-badged Jeep product. Development work for the new model continued and Chrysler employees (after the 1987 buyout of AMC) were eager for a late-1980s release date; however, then-CEO Lee Iacocca was pushing for redesigned Chrysler minivans, thus delaying the Grand Cherokee's release until late 1992 as an Explorer competitor.
The Grand Cherokee debuted in grand fashion at the 1992 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. Then-Chrysler president Robert Lutz drove Detroit mayor, Coleman Young up the steps of Cobo Hall and through a plate glass window to show off the new vehicle. Production of the Grand Cherokee started shortly afterward in the purpose-built Jefferson North Assembly in Detroit, Michigan and has remained there since.
The ZJ models, manufactured from 1993 to 1998, originally came in three general trims, the Base, Laredo, and the Limited. The Base model offered basic features such as full instruments, cloth interior, a standard five-speed manual transmission, while soon gaining the moniker SE name in 1994. Creature comforts like power windows and locks were not standard equipment on the SE, although conveniences like these were finally included in 1995; a somewhat contrasting pricetag with minimal production numbers resulted with low consumer demand and dropping the now-uncommon bare-bone model forever. The Laredo was the mid-scale model (essentially becoming base model after 1996), standard features included added body cladding power windows, power door locks, and cruise control; exterior features displayed a medium grey plastic lower body paneling and five-spoke aluminum wheels. The Limited was the premium model, with the lower body paneling being the same color as the vehicle color. The Limited also boasted standard features such as leather seating, optional power sunroof, mirrors, seats, and remote keyless entry system; heated mirrors, and heated seats, a basic onboard computer; and waffle-like cast aluminum wheels.