Jeep is plotting a push upmarket – and a new baby crossoverGrand Wagoneer ‘will be super-premium’ and a sub-Renegade SUV is being mulled
What’s new on Planet Jeep? After a genius reinvention of the iconic Wrangler, big plans are afoot, according to company boss Mike Manley, at both ends of the Jeep range.
“Grand Wagoneer [due in 2020] will be super premium”, he confidently states at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. “We’ve been working on it for several years. It has a long gestation period, and will be clearly positioned significantly above Grand Cherokee.”
“But I wouldn’t say I don’t want to develop the B-and C-SUV segments. And I believe there is an opportunity to do an A-segment SUV, something smaller than Renegade. I see the signs and think that market will continue to develop.”
TG ventures that a smaller crossover, with a more urban customer in mind, would be ideal fodder for Jeep’s first crack at a hybrid or electric model. But Manley doesn’t confirm it in black and white.
“On the 1st of June 2018 we’ll lay out the plan for the next five years, and you’ll see the level of electrification we have planned. It’s very significant”, he explains.
“To me it’s about the degree of electrification we deploy. Some of our competitors have hybrids on the very mild side of hybrid… I think the key driver is what do you want the vehicle to be able to do?”
“Is it a reasonable range on all electric? Or diesel-like fuel efficiency? Many people are achieving that. Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid has fuel economy better than a diesel in that segment. What I’ve been thinking with our team is how we deploy electric across the range.”
So, that begs the question: what exactly does a Jeep customer want from their PHEV, or EV – and their SUV?
“They want everything – it’s diverse”, says the boss. “Not all hybrid systems today are focused on fuel efficiency. Some are focused on initial torque at launch. When I think about Jeep performance, that’s an interesting option.” Handy for breaching gnarly obstacles off-road, for example…
“I like the diversity of what Jeep means around the world”, he continues. “Our Chinese customers can see [the appeal] of a full battery-electric Jeep. Now, think about that in the context of the US customer. We have to think very carefully about using very sensitive hybrid technology, because our whole mantra’ is ‘we take you there, and we bring you back’.
“It’s a great conundrum we’re in, but what’s for sure is different ranges of electrification will be in every segment. There was a theory manufacturers would just focus on one E model to get their average balance [of emissions] down, but the reality is if that happened, everyone would just choose a different segment.”
So as far as pushing Jeep’s luxury credentials goes, Manley says it’s not as simple as just copying Land Rover’s surge upmarket.
“If you think of what Land Rover has done, it has a two brand strategy. It’s not mainstream, but it has dual positions. Jeep is reversed. If I go back a few years, Grand Cherokee is positioned against [the BMW] X5. It was a premium position, and it should be rightfully in that place. But in the smaller segments, even the premium guys are not so premium. You can lease vehicles with very little price inequity.
“I want to keep Jeep premium in the larger car segments but I want to give people access to smaller Jeeps. Now I don’t have two brands to play with, so I do it with models – with Overland, Summit, and Rubicon for Wrangler. That’s how I get to cover a broad path.”