The decision by former Chrysler design chief Trevor Creed, approved by the company’s product planners and subsequently reaffirmed by Sergio Marchionne and his team of Fiat managers, to produce two compact Jeep SUVs, the Compass and the Patriot, has always confused me. Why spend money developing two different cars based on the same platform for the same market segment? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make one good car instead of two not quite as good cars?
Of course in the corporate mind at Chrysler, the Compass and the Patriot were not really supposed to compete with each other. The Patriot was supposed to be a compact Jeep for traditional Jeep owners, with styling derived from the XJ Cherokee. The Compass was supposed to be the compact Jeep for
women people who’d never consider buying a Jeep. It had rounder, softer shapes, and was the first Jeep to be sold that could not be bought in a configuration that would earn it Jeep’s coveted “Trail Rated” branding.
Both Jeeplets have gotten their poorly received original interiors upgraded as Chrysler has renewed its product line coming out of its bankruptcy and just last month at the 2013 NAIAS Chrysler introduced the restyled 2014 Compass, touting it as “the Most Capable Compact SUV” having “Segment-leading capability”. So where does that leave the Patriot? I guess the product planners and marketers in Auburn Hills are slicing the marketing segment salami paper thin because at the same time that Chrysler was publishing the press release about the new Compass, it was also releasing one about the 2014 Jeep Patriot, with “Benchmark Compact-SUV Capability” with ”Segment-leading capability”.
Does that mean that the Compass is more “capable” than the Patriot? Is the Patriot the “benchmark” for the Compass? And just which segments are each of them leading. Both cars feature a new six-speed automatic, both cars are now available with Jeep’s Freedom Drive I 4×4 package and both can be equipped in Trail Rated form with Jeep’s Freedom Drive II 4×4 Off-road Package. The Compass’ original raison d’etre was selling Jeeps to people that would never take them off pavement. Now that both cars are equally capable, and segment-leading capable at that, what’s the point of selling both of them? Sergio’s no dummy so selling both cars may make more money than just one of them, but I still can’t help but think what a Patriot with twice the development money behind it would be like.
Ya think there’s some cutting and pasting going on in Auburn Hills?Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS