By on February 1, 2010

Having re-birthed themselves at the taxpayers’ expense, one of Chrysler’s top priorities is restoring the brand equity that has bled out since the Daimler takeover.  First up was the move to spin “Ram” off as its own brand, and now it seems that no-one is safe from “re-birth,” as UPI.com reports that Chrysler are rethinking their strongest brand, Jeep. Unfortunately, one man’s brand rebirth is another man’s brand betrayal. Chrysler want to replace all of Jeep’s products, except for the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, and the idea is to utilise Fiat’s experience of fuel efficient engines as the basis for it. That means Jeep is likely to become smaller, more fuel-efficient and less off-road capable [rumors of a Fiat Panda 4×4-based Jeep (rendered above) date back to the earliest days of the Fiat-Chrysler alliance]. If you had to boil the proposed shift into a single word, UPI figures it would be “soft.” And the markets have reacted to this news in pretty much the same way you’ve probably just reacted: they think the idea is bad. Very bad.

“Chrysler has to protect the crown jewel,” Aaron Bragman, research analyst with IHS Global Insight, told the newspaper. “When Jeep sticks to its core values it does well. Jeep has always been a trucky off-road brand and whenever they got away from that it did not go well.” Gerald Myers, professor at the University of Michigan and former chairman of Jeep’s former owner, AMC, was a little less subdued in his reaction, “It’s a huge mistake….I couldn’t think of anything worse for the brand.” Mike Manley, head of the Jeep brand said that the brand is capable of broadening its urban appeal and is aware of the risks, “We don’t want to dilute what Jeep means,” he said. Which is probably what Cadillac brand managers said when they introduced the Cimmarron.

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47 Comments on “Jeep Crossing Over To “Broaden Urban Appeal”...”


  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    It doesn’t have to be bad. I could see Jeep endeavouring to compete with Subaru, for example.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    I can see it in my head, but can’t remember the name of the cartoon character from when I was a kid.

    “WHAT A REVOLTING DEVELOPMENT”.

    I’m not even remotely a Jeep fan. And I know better.

    To compete with Subaru, FIAT would actually have to manufacture vehicles which could compete with Subaru in the reliability and dependability stakes.

    How ironic that Dodge Brothers’ advertisements 85 years ago actually coined the English word “dependability”. It didn’t exist before that.

    The interesting thing was, they weren’t using false advertising about their cars (back then), either. At least, of course, relative to the other cars on the market at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      50merc

      Mr Carpenter, the phrase “what a revoltin’ development this is” was often used by Daffy Duck in Warner Bros. cartoons. But I think the catch phrase became popular when used by William Bendix in the radio show “The Life of Riley.” He also starred in the title role of the TV show with the same name.

      The phrase was so popular, you may have seen it used in many contexts.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    IMO at present Chrysler has a lot bigger fish to fry than Jeep. Their priority should be getting new product into Dodge and Chrysler showrooms under those brand names. Jeep should be the last of their concerns right now. Since a lot of their showrooms include all three brands they need to concern themselves with product overlap as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Lavventura

      At this point, it seems FIAT is more concerned about rebadging as many FIAT cars and selling them in North America then any cohesive branding strategy.

      The Panda really doesn’t match the Jeep brand, currently they start at 54 bhp for 1.1L and top out at 99 bhp for the most powerful variant.

      And they aren’t that cheap, obviously this will slide in right below the Jeep Compass, but not by much, and I’d question the appeal of this vehicle to traditional Jeep buyers when this Panda would make even the god-awful Compass look like a CJ-reincarnate.

    • 0 avatar
      sean362880

      I think this is great news.

      Panda = cheap, utilitarian off-roader
      Compass = FWD minivan / vomit inducing design study

      Which of the two fits better with the Jeep brand?

      They’re talking about killing off the worst of the brand: Commander, Liberty, Patriot, and Compass. Anything else they introduce (including the Panda) can’t be any worse than those 4. Plus they’re keeping the best of the brand, which is the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee. What’s not to like?

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    Agreed, Fiaysler needs to thoroughly reimage its automobile brands, not mess with (what passes lately for) success.

    If the company continues with this ridiculous thinking, it’s doomed.(One wonders if it shouldn’t be anyway.)

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    I kind of question the dilution of the Jeep brand. AMC and later Chrysler were very careful to never do this. When I worked at Chrysler I was always amazed what people would pay for Wranglers. A loaded Rubicon would often go out the door at $40k + and few of them ever saw off road duty. We made tons on every one.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    These offroad trucks have been marketed and sold to a vast number of people who don’t need offroad and don’t need trucks. As fashion trends move away from such vehicles, Chrysler can either sell the same vehicles to those people actually needing such vehicles (a small number compared to sales of 5 years ago) or Chrysler can change the vehicle design to be where they think the large market segment will be.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “I knew Jeep. Jeep was a friend of mine. You sir, are no Jeep.”

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    I’ve seen VW’s with Rolls-Royce grills, I’ve seen Corvettes gussied up to look like Ferrari’s, now we get a Fiat with the nose of a Grand Cherokee-well, sort of. A Grand Cherokee wearing a pair of binoculars.

    Very bad indeed. Not the sort of Rubicon we want to see crossed.

  • avatar
    akitadog

    Rather than downsize Jeep’s fleet, why can’t they just throw in some diesels? That’ll show everyone that FIAT’s serious. Save your customers some fuel costs and add to the rugged persona that is Jeep. Bam, the two birds and one stone thing.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    A “mini” Jeep MIGHT work if marketed properly.

    It worked for SAAB back in the early 60’s with “Carlsson on the Roof” winning the Monte Carlo Rally among others. Those rallys showed the world how tough those little cars were. Sold one to my dad, anyhow.

    SAAB in action
    http://www.saabhistory.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/hre61301c.thumbnail.jpg

    Here’s a picture that explains the name

    http://www.saabhistory.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/hral-14c.thumbnail.jpg

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    I’m not a jeep fan never was.. never will be.
    I wasn’t a Chrysler fan (not of their products) more of their mgt and their designs.. going back to ’90.
    And I rooted for Dodge back in about ’90 as the underdog..

    Now..
    Its just one GIANT mess of crap.

    They have
    Commander, GC, Liberty, Patriot, Compass ntm the Wrangler and NOW in a 4dr. I might have seen the purpose for 1/8th of said vehicles in 90.. but I dont see a single purpose for any one.

    And I cant even imagine spending 40g to buy one of these. Its not worth a damn red cent.

    The worst part..
    JEEP is going after the same flawed concept as EVERYONE ELSE, from Honda’s CRV, to the Kia Sorento to the Chevy Equinox, nothing about this vehicle or any in the SUV / CUV segment that these compete in stand out for anything but extra seats or tech equipment.

    Its just another vehicle without snow tires or the concept in how to drive the damn thing.

    Broader urban appeal.
    Whatever happened to sticking with what the base likes…

  • avatar
    don1967

    How can anyone read this story without throwing up just a little in their mouth? Even Mr. Ferrari must be rolling over in his grave.

    It will be a sad day when my Santa Fe rescues one of these “Jeeps” from 2″ of mud on some remote forest trail.

  • avatar

    This looks like great idea, and I would’ve fallen for it 5 years ago. But now I know better, having journeyed on a RAV4 in a caravan of Wranglers. The only thing that makes Patriot beat all the other CUVs (_except_ Suzuki Grand Vitara) is that funny setting in CVT that provides something like 1:20 ratio (Suzuki has a transfer case, so it does 1:24). I am reserving judgement until know what drivetrain the Pandamobile uses exactly.

  • avatar
    carve

    In the mid 90’s, some of the best mountain bikes you could buy were GT brand. Schwinn was pretty good, too.

    The companies were sold to Pacific Cycles- a big departement-store bike maker, and the esteemed labels were put on crap bikes. They probably made a lot of money doing this for a couple of years, but now people largely recognize Schwinn and GT as being a crap bike, and aren’t much more likely to buy those labels than “Huffy”. Pacific realized they’d squandered the brand equity, and came out with some brand new high-end GT’s. Despite being decent (though not great) bikes, the brand equity was gone. The GT label was a reason for people to NOT buy otherwise nice bikes.

    If Jeep isn’t careful, this could happen to them, too. It doesn’t matter that most don’t go off-road; the point is they CAN. That image is based on tests and what you see real off-roaders driving. People are willing to even put up with an inferior on-road experience for this image. That’s all they’re selling- the image. Sure- they could probably put that image on re-badged econoboxes and make some money for a couple of years, but then the image will be tarnished, and those customers will quickly go away. Instead of Jeep being associated with superior off-road machinery, they’ll be associated with ridiculous low-end cars. If Jeep wants to move down-market, they should still make it something sparten and off-roadable. Perhaps something like the old Suzuki Samuri / CJ5 sized vehicle.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    The way it is now I would drive my 2 Wranglers forever, as the desirable ones are way too expensive.

    Two things I would consider.

    A more advanced Rubicon with Torsen diff in TC and mechanical lockers, manual box and a diesel engine, much like a G Wagen power train. Take out all the electronics and just leave the minimum to pass emissions.

    Or better yet a modern version of the Samurai, with all the trick drivetrain parts, manual box and diesel engine kept small and simple.

    Enough supply to prevent the dealers from unrealistic gouging.

    Everything else, except the Cherokee is utter junk anyway.

    Out of all the Chrysler brands, Jeep is the only one I would consider, simply because the G Wagen is unaffordable and hard to get parts for.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    When are they going to wake up and realize that Jeep is a niche brand. It is not supposed to appeal to the watered-down desires of the masses. Any attempt to change that will be a failure.

  • avatar
    midelectric

    From overseas reviews I understand the Panda really has some off-road chops and with it’s small size and lighter curb weight, it should be able to go places chunkier off-roaders (just about all of them) cannot. So is Jeep really about the freedom to go off-road or is it a vehicle aesthetic characterized by the kind of crude mechanical earthiness of big, fat tires and upright windshields?

    If it’s the former then the Panda would make an excellent complement to the line, if it’s the latter then Jeep will have to get used to lower sales as that style of vehicle continues its slide into unpopularity.

  • avatar

    Your tax dollars at work!

    Drop crap, create more crap.

    John

  • avatar

    Your tax dollars at work!

    Drop crap, create more crap.

    John

  • avatar
    MrDot

    Yeah, I’m not feeling the outrage here. By all accounts the Panda 4×4 is a plenty competent soft-roader capable of most things short of rock-climbing. And for that, they still have the Wrangler. Seems like a good idea to me- a small, cheap SUV that can goose CAFE regs while not being too soft for the occasional snowy commute or muddy weekend.

  • avatar
    NickR

    A Jeep about the same dimensions as the old Geo Tracker, but with some legit offroad credentials? Yes, I can see that. But this thing is a bit too wimpy looking to be a Jeep. Jeep suffers when it strays away from it’s traditional styling cues.

  • avatar
    t8528sl

    As a former Jeep Product Planner here are my thoughts. Their thinking internally is that as long as the Wrangler is true to the Jeep heritage, the rest of the line can stray. The Wrangler guys will ignore the rest of the Jeep line and the brand cache can be carried to less hard core niches. Quotes like “As long as they don’t change the Wrangler, I don’t care what they do with the rest of the line.” from research supported this theory.

    Internally we struggled with this dichotomy for years (soft road Jeeps). There were two camps, old schoolers (mainly Vehicle Development and Chassis Engineering) and the Marketing types that wanted more volume. For a look at the internal conflict, look at the “Trail Rated” badge on the Jeeps, a Grand Cherokee can only have the rating if it passes a certain test and has certain equipment (skid plates, wheel packages, low speed transfer case minimum ground clearance, full size spare, locking diffs, tow hooks, etc). It drove crazy stuff like making 20″ wheels standard on the Overland but making 17″ wheels optional (packaged with the off road group w/skid plates etc). So only SOME Jeeps are trail rated, not all. The die hard guys know which ones by the badge. See? Easy!

    Hows that working for them? There is a version of the Patriot that is “Trail Rated” (note the quotes) that has traction control differential (surprisingly effective), skid plates, a full size spare +1 inch ground clearance, tow hooks all around and that low setting on the tranny. It worked okay but none of the Wrangler guys gave it the time of day. Sales are mediocre on the whole Patriot lineup, more of a statement on the execution than of the Jeep expansion concept.

    I think if they can get away with the Liberty they can do anything. Doing a CR-V / Forester / Rav4 fighter having extra equipment available (or standard) is the right way to do it. Just don’t chase volume (no FWD version!). Dealers hate that because it adds $2000 to the price tag and hurts advertising. How many people know there is a 2WD version of the Grand Cherokee, Liberty, or Wrangler (long wheelbase)?

    It can be done, but it has to be done right, with the right product.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      I’m a Wrangler guy who a year ago I wanted a new low-cost daily driver so I could retire my TJ from that for just off-road duty. I test drove a Compass and I was so disgusted that it had a Jeep badge that I instead bought a Civic. IMHO, Chrysler should have only had that car with a Caliber nameplate and not diluted the Jeep brand.

      I do realize that the current JK and WK are available in just two-wheel drive. To share a story with you, another time I was looking for a used XJ and I came across what looked like a nice one that I was told was driven up from Florida. When I crawled under it, I was a shocked to see no transfer case! The lady who was selling it told me that she thought it would sell better up north rather then in Florida due to it’s big tires (that were not really big at all). I chuckled and thanked her for letting me look it over and wished her the best selling it.

      I didn’t have the heart to tell hear that she should have sold it in Florida. Sure there is a market for diluted Jeep vehicles (like two-wheel drive!), but does selling a few more really help the brand? It’s not like Chrysler only sells the Jeep brand. Save the Jeep brand!

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    Hmmm
    On the risk of sounding “old”

    What was so wrong with staying with the mixture they had.. 5-10yrs ago?

    They had the Cherokee.
    The GC
    And the regular (based on the smaller frame Wrangler, TJ, YJ)

    If ya look at what they have now..
    NOTHING stands out.. from anything else.
    They all have 4wd (some of the gutless bastards prob have 2wd).
    They all have virtually the same dimensions.
    They all can be offered in the most base / gutless version possible..

    Whats the diff between the Commander and the Wrangler Unlimited?
    Whats the diff between the Wrangler unlimited and or the GC?
    Also.. They DID change the WRANGLER! I know it has a new frame and a longer version (JK v TJ). SO.. now whats its point?

    Personally..
    They need to see GM and ask them what happens when ya got the same shit competing against EACH OTHER!

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    One inferior company being taken over by another. I smell FAIL.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    good grief! here in europe, panda has a cute little face … they’ve disfigured it!!

  • avatar

    Instead of FIAT trying to figure out how to rebadge their runabouts as Jeeps, how about Jeep going back to the basics:

    – Cherokee (or Liberty)
    – Grand Cherokee
    – Wrangler (both 2 and 4 door versions)

    With the 4 door Wrangler, I don’t see why you’d still need the C/L around — guess you gotta have a semi-civilized 4 door around that’s not hovering around the GC’s price point. This way, you don’t have to worry about rebadges. Or catering to people who want soft-roaders, knowing full well they’ll just buy a RAV4/CR-V/Tuscon.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Hey Cammy– Who made the image? I’m sure it’s Chrysler-sourced, right?

    Otherwise, don’t pretend this is the real deal, and don’t allow your audience to, either. Sloppy, sloppy.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I can’t imagine that image is from Chrysler – they’ve never offered the Rubicon package on anything other than a Wrangler, why would they do so on this? The only other vehicle with reasonable capability in their line up that could potentially form the basis of a Rubicon capable vehicle is the Grand Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      @iNeon

      I didn’t pick the picture, you’ll have you speak to Edward.

  • avatar
    gsnfan

    I can understand that Jeep wants to have fuel-efficient off-roaders, but do they have to look like Daewoo Matiz’s with Rubicon badges?

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Someone seems to be under the impression new Chrysler’s only killer-app is the tape stripe.

    The Panda, sufficiently reworked for American tastes, can(likely will) make a fine sub-Patriot Jeep. Notice I mentioned Patriot; the forgotten Jeep. Ya’ll know it I’m sure– it’s the Trail-Rated Belvedere car.

  • avatar
    d002

    “Chrysler has to protect the crown jewel”

    Yep, that attitude is the reason why Chrysler is broke.

    Mate, Russians and Indians wouldn’t buy a Wrangler.
    Only stupid Americans unsure of their masculinity (and fewer and fewer of them even).

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    It would make a good Ram or replacement for the Caliber as a 5 door multi purpose vehicle. It isn’t a Jeep even with the moustache.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Again – don’t water down your brands’ image / niche just to get a few more sales. Protect it, develop it, keep your hardcore customers and not focus on chasing the soccer mom / cubicle commuter Dads current vehicle fashion (it will change), weather the slow sales periods and wait for the booms when your image is again back in style with a stronger image.

    This is marketing 101 that the car companies simply fail at.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    The Panda is not watered-down. It(from internet searches– I’m plain old American) has a wonderful reputation for a minuscule 4×4. Top 10 in Top Gear’s survey– of over 150 automobiles. No other commuter-mileage car is as capable offroad as this Panda. It’s been built for 30 years. In America, we call that legendary when it’s attached to the Toyoda or Honda brands.

    Why the bias?

    The car gets 55mpg with the diesel and 4×4. You’re welcome for the cake, and you may begin eating.

    • 0 avatar
      AccAzda

      Alright…

      First, Jeep needs to be WITHOUT the COMMANDER, COMPASS, PATRIOT, LIBERTY.

      That’s for starters.

      Second, the Panda is a European vehicle.. SO gallons v Imperial Gallons don’t equate well, nor does diesel fuel or / with similar FUEL ECONOMY.. and knowing AMERICANS, a STICK isn’t used. So basically.. it will prob have some 1.6-2ltr motor, with an auto, on regular, hopefully pushing for 30-35mpg. If it acts like dual VVTI with d.i.. like what Hyundai is pushing.. only in the multi-air concept from FIAT.. its only selling point is going to be fuel economy and a CHEAP Chrysler.. begging for sales numbers.. with a vehicle that at the bottom of the list.. (prob 15-17g) for a stripper.

      THIRD, this vehicle makes the Patriot / Compass / Liberty look like H2s.

      Fourth, I frankly don’t care if it has 4×4, (going back to my other MASSIVE source of aggravation) a vehicle this small (A-B segment).. and my (6th gen) Accord has more space (and probably more utility), with snows and or a euro-Accord/TSX designed wagon.. and it would embarrass it. Heck put the Panda and a SMART FORtwo together and I’m sure they’d make a nice couple… as they blow across the highway in 20mph wind.

      FIFTH, I’m STILL amazed at the ancient lengths the MEDIA STILL GOES TO.. to prove a CUV / SUV / 4×4 / awd unit’s worth, and here I am thinking 5th gear is better than that. They = MEDIA STILL show these useless tests when less than 1% ever use as designed, even half of that 1% ever put snow tires on the thing. (Why else are these things purchased… oh right.. as “family” vehicles.)

      SIXTH, then again in the US market, if people are going to buy an GM SUV in California to hold 1 person.. that was purchased from a GM dealer.. with GIANT “HYBRID” stickers on the side … anything is possible.

      SEVENTH, Sell it cheap enough, to the lowest common denominator.. with a nice looooong lease, push it as “American”.. and I’m sure plenty will buy it.

      EIGHTH, the marketing for JEEP DOES suck. They are TAKING the LAST bastion of what JEEP is and putting a couple of women fresh from the hairdressers.. in it as their only way of excitement. They could have more fun, in a smaller package, that’s more lightweight than a Unlimited version of the Wrangler. That’s all that JEEP is.. open air “freedom”?! How bout ya take the doors off, drop the front glass, lose 1500lbs in GVWR and find out what driving the vehicle is actually like

    • 0 avatar

      I’m a Wrangler guy. (Used to say “I’m a Jeep guy,” but that’s like when you’re a Conservative, you can’t say “I’m a Republican,” because “Republican” doesn’t stand for anything any more than “Jeep” does.)

      The Panda may be a great vehicle. But until they deliver something that would look outta place under the Big Top with a bunch of Ringling Bros.’ finest pouring out of it, I’ll pass.

      My formula to “Save the Jeeps” is simple:

      Stop trying to make Jeep all things to all people. Focus, Pinky…FOCUS.

      Kill the Compass (please!), the Patriot, and the Commander.

      Return the Liberty to it’s “Cute Ute” roots – and sell ‘em to women. If you need a vehicle for hybrid/electric/alt. fuels/screwing up the brand – this is the one to sacrifice.

      Build a two-door and four-door pickup built on the Wrangler Unlimited base – hard top and soft-top, please.

      Put Diesels in the Wrangler!

      Hire an ad agency that understands the brand,(maybe people who drive Jeeps, for instance), stand back, and let them recapture the romance of the brand. (MY agency, for instance. Hint, hint; grin, grin; wink, wink; say no more, say no more.)

      That’s about it. And if you wanna do something that would REALLY appeal to off-road guys, cut a deal with Herman Miller and license the Aeron chair technology, and make some seats for the Jeep that ditch cushions for a fabric/frame combo – then put them in a stripped-down Rubicon with no superfluous electronics (electric windows, power locks, etc.). Now THAT would sell.


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