Grand Wagoneer is go! Jeep has confirmed it will add a big new model with three-row seating – and it will wear the old-time name – from 2018.
Before then, the American SUV and offroad specialist has an awful lot to get done. Both Patriot and Compass are to be replaced by a single, all-new model in 2016. Then there’s new-generation Wrangler and Grand Cherokee models scheduled for 2017. And all this comes on top of the Renegade, the new baby SUV revealed at the Geneva Autosalon in March, on sale in Europe from the second half of this year, and due to reach Australian showrooms in 2015.
Details of Jeep’s product plan were revealed in Detroit in May, along with timetables for every other brand owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The presentations to investors, led by FCA chief Sergio Marchionne, laid out the group’s plans to the end of 2018.
The five-year plan’s main goal is to increase FCA’s global annual sales to seven million in 2018, boosting manufacturing efficiency and profits at the same time. In 2013 FCA brands – Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Ferrari – racked up 4.4 million sales. Almost half the 2.6 million extra sales called for by the plan are Jeeps, which is projected to achieve a global tally of more than 1.9 million by 2018, up from 800,000 last year.
Extra factories will be needed to build all these Jeeps. Most of the manufacturing capacity will be added in countries outside the USA, including China, India, Brazil and Italy. However, Jeep’s four American plants will continue to be the biggest producers.
Jeep is counting on continuing success from its core vehicles for most of the growth. The only additions are at the very top and bottom of the range: the small Renegade that’s just gone into production at a factory in the south of Italy, and the big Grand Wagoneer, scheduled for
a 2018 launch.
Before then, two of the brand’s most important models are to be replaced by fresh-generation designs. Because it effectively defines Jeep’s brand identity, the 2017 Wrangler is even more important than the new Grand Cherokee due the same year.
Jeep’s current leadership seems to understand the Wrangler’s key role. President and CEO Mike Manley has confirmed the new Wrangler will continue with body-on-frame construction, but adds: “The vehicle has to improve its fuel economy.”
This is likely to come from better drivetrain efficiency, as sticking with separate chassis construction and traditional Wrangler design means little improvement in vehicle weight or aerodynamics can be expected.
But the new Wrangler will be better than ever offroad.
“There will be an improvement in (offroad) capability, believe it or not,” a senior Jeep engineer told 4X4 Australia at Geneva in March.
The team working on the project are acutely aware of Wrangler’s icon status.
“Don’t f--k it up,” is their (probably unofficial) motto, according to the engineer.
What’s Coming for Jeep
2015 - All new Jeep Renegade compact SUV arrives
2016 - Jeep’s 75th Anniversary
New SUV replaces Patriot and Compass
2017 - New Wrangler and Grand Cherokee debut
2018 - All new Grand Wagoneer 7-seater