The Truth About Cars » Jeep http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 18 Oct 2014 16:29:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Jeep http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com DOE Revives Loan Scheme For Auto Makers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/doe-revives-loan-scheme-auto-makers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/doe-revives-loan-scheme-auto-makers/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:26:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928057 After unwinding their Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program in 2011, the Department of Energy is bringing it back. According to The Detroit News, the focus of this round will be on suppliers, as well as lightweight vehicle technology. Despite the stated focus on suppliers, the timing of the announcement comes as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne […]

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After unwinding their Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program in 2011, the Department of Energy is bringing it back. According to The Detroit News, the focus of this round will be on suppliers, as well as lightweight vehicle technology.

Despite the stated focus on suppliers, the timing of the announcement comes as FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne raised the idea of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler as a way of helping the venerable SUV meet increasing fuel economy standards – while also claiming that retrofitting the Toledo, Ohio assembly plant for aluminum construction would be far too expensive.

With roughly $16 billion in unused funds, the ATVM program has plenty of cash to spare to help re-tool Toledo – or any number of facilities. But you can bet that Marchionne, shrewd operator that he is, will use the threat of pulling production from Toledo to leverage some funds from the program – if he’s not already using that as a scare tactic in upcoming negotiations with the UAW.

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Manley: Jeep Grand Wagoneer On Its Way http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/manley-jeep-grand-wagoneer-way/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/manley-jeep-grand-wagoneer-way/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 10:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927594 Town & Country PHEVs not your bag? Jeep’s Mike Manley might have a Grand Wagoneer waiting for you in late 2015 for the 2016 model year. Motoring.com.au reports the three-row, seven- to eight-passenger SUV will serve as the brand’s flagship, competing against the likes of the Mercedes GL-Class and the upcoming BMW X7 as Jeep […]

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Town & Country PHEVs not your bag? Jeep’s Mike Manley might have a Grand Wagoneer waiting for you in late 2015 for the 2016 model year.

Motoring.com.au reports the three-row, seven- to eight-passenger SUV will serve as the brand’s flagship, competing against the likes of the Mercedes GL-Class and the upcoming BMW X7 as Jeep grows its market share in the United States, Brazil and Australia.

Speaking of the BMW X Series, Manley says the Grand Cherokee proved to all that Jeep could “compete at the very premium end of the segment,” citing the cross-shop between it and the X5 in the U.S. market as “phenomenal.” He’s also considering models aimed at the X4 and X6, believing such vehicles would be beneficial to the lineup:

If you consider the styling of Cherokee and Renegade, there’s perhaps [even] more of a market in D [segment] than E SUV [for sportier models]. I think it can fit with the brand.

As far as sales go, Manley says Jeep is on its way to selling over 1 million units in 2014, with a goal of doubling that number by 2018. When asked about 2015, however, all he stated was that there was an expectation for Jeep to continue climbing up the global market trail.

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Chart Of The Day: Jeep’s Importance At FCA In America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chart-day-jeeps-importance-fca-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chart-day-jeeps-importance-fca-america/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 12:02:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913482 Outside of Maserati, which sold more cars than Jaguar in August 2014, Jeep is America’s fastest-growing auto brand in 2014. Through the first eight months of 2014, Jeep’s U.S. volume is up 45%, an increase of more than 143,235 sales. Total FCA/Chrysler Group sales are up 14%. That’s no small feat, but it’s abundantly apparent […]

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Jeep USA sales chart 2014Outside of Maserati, which sold more cars than Jaguar in August 2014, Jeep is America’s fastest-growing auto brand in 2014. Through the first eight months of 2014, Jeep’s U.S. volume is up 45%, an increase of more than 143,235 sales.

Total FCA/Chrysler Group sales are up 14%. That’s no small feat, but it’s abundantly apparent that Jeep is motivating much of the Chrysler/Dodge/Fiat/Jeep/Ram gains. (Ram brand sales are up by nearly 58,000 units year-to-date.)

As FCA/Chrysler Group car volume plunges, sliding 18% this year according to the automaker, Jeep’s massive improvements are all the more important.

And it’s not all Cherokee-derived. Sales of Jeep’s other models, the Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, Patriot, and Compass, are up 11% in 2014. The Chrysler family now relies on the brand for more than three out of every ten sales, well up from fewer than two out of every ten in 2004.

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The Source Of August 2014’s U.S. Auto Sales Growth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/source-august-2014s-u-s-auto-sales-growth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/source-august-2014s-u-s-auto-sales-growth/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:28:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=906633 Forecasts didn’t call for rain on August 2014’s auto sales parade, but there was definitely a general feeling of overcast heading into Wednesday as automakers prepared to release their monthly and year-to-date sales results. The rate of growth in the U.S. auto industry since the recession ended has been striking, but the chances of that […]

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U.S. auto sales growth by units gained August 2014Forecasts didn’t call for rain on August 2014’s auto sales parade, but there was definitely a general feeling of overcast heading into Wednesday as automakers prepared to release their monthly and year-to-date sales results.

The rate of growth in the U.S. auto industry since the recession ended has been striking, but the chances of that growth lasting forever – particularly when a month like August is compared with a very strong month like August 2013 – seemed slim.

Yet auto sales increased by 5.5% to more than 1.58 million in August 2014, an improvement of more than 80,000 units.

The forecasts weren’t all wrong. High-volume brands like Chevrolet, Dodge, and Volkswagen all reported losses, a 13% decline in Volkswagen’s case, the 17th consecutive month in which Volkswagen brand sales have decreased in the United States.

Jaguar volume fell 31%. Infiniti volume fell 23%. Fiat was down 20%. Scion sales likewise slid 20%. Cadillac volume was off August 2013’s pace by 18%. Sales at BMW’s Mini brand were down 17%. Buick and Volvo both lost 10%; Acura and Land Rover fell 9%. Lincoln was just south of level.

The bright spots, however, were particularly bright. Jeep, Ram, Subaru, Nissan, and Toyota were the biggest brands to post significant increases. Maserati, Porsche, Smart, Mitsubishi, and Audi were among the lower-volume auto brands to post meaningful improvements: 278%, 36%, 34%, 28%, and 22%, respectively.

Mazda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, GMC, and Lexus all grew by at least 10%. Toyota brand sales were up 7%. Hyundai grew 6%. (Kia, Chrysler, Honda, Bentley, and Ford improvements were all below the market’s 5.5% growth rate.)

Back to those five large and fast-growing brands, Jeep reported its best-ever sales month for the new Cherokee, America’s eighth-ranked SUV/crossover in August. Ram’s market share in the full-size truck category grew by more than four percentage points. Subaru sold more than 50,000 vehicles for the first time in a single month, and Nissan reported a car sales improvement of 18% in a car market that improved by just 2%. Toyota shot the RAV4 up to top spot among utility vehicles with record sales in a second consecutive month.

As for the fast-growing lower-volume brands, Maserati outsold Jaguar, albeit by just 49 units. Even with the Macan excluded, Porsche sales jumped 7.3%. Mercedes-Benz reported more than 1000 Smart Fortwo sales for the third time in five months, having not done so previously since September 2012.

Mitsubishi is not back to being a brand that can sell more than 300,000 cars annually in the United States, but sales have increased in six consecutive months and in ten of the last eleven months.

Audi reported its highest-ever monthly sales in the U.S. in August, generating 41% of the brand’s sales with Q models and the A4 Allroad, including the first 243 Q3 sales.

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Cherokee Isn’t Slowing Down Other Jeeps http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cherokee-isnt-slowing-jeeps/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/cherokee-isnt-slowing-jeeps/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:27:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=888665 On a percentage scale, through the first seven months of 2014, the only auto brand improving its year-over-year U.S. sales tally more proficiently than Jeep is Maserati. In other words, Jeep is the fastest-growing volume auto brand in America in 2014. Based on pure volume gains, no auto brand, certainly not Maserati, has improved on […]

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2014 Jeep CherokeeOn a percentage scale, through the first seven months of 2014, the only auto brand improving its year-over-year U.S. sales tally more proficiently than Jeep is Maserati. In other words, Jeep is the fastest-growing volume auto brand in America in 2014.

Based on pure volume gains, no auto brand, certainly not Maserati, has improved on its seven-month 2013 sales total as successfully as Jeep has, with 120,708 extra sales over the last seven months.

Subaru sales are up by 43,131 units. The Ram brand is up by 44,916 units. The Toyota brand is up by 60,146 units. Nissan brand sales are up by 84,295 units.

At this stage last year, including 6048 Libertys and not a single Cherokee, Jeep had sold 271,682 vehicles in the United States. Jeep has sold 392,390 vehicles so far this year, making Jeep Chrysler Group/FCA’s highest-volume brand. (The historic pairing of Dodge and Ram have combined for 602,098 sales year-to-date.)

Things could be different. What if the Liberty simply expired? What if FCA decided to rely on the aging, never-completely-loved Compass and Patriot in the small crossover arena? It’s not as though automakers haven’t allowed vehicles to run a long course before. What if Jeep decided to reject a Fiat car-based architecture and styling that was, especially when the vehicle debuted, shocking?

What if the Cherokee had not returned?

First, we have to realize the hypothetical nature of the question, as evidenced by its, “What if,” opening. We can’t know how many Cherokee sales were generated by buyers who would otherwise have selected a Patriot, or perhaps a low-end Grand Cherokee, or maybe even a Wrangler.

Second, we should remember that while the Cherokee isn’t an outright top seller – the Honda CR-V sells nearly twice as often – or even the top-selling Jeep, it has quickly become a common sight on U.S. roads. It’s America’s ninth-best-selling utility vehicle so far this year; 95,259 have been sold in 2014 in addition to the 25,786 sold in the latter stages of 2013.

Jeep USA sales chart July 2014 YTD150,000 Cherokee sales, perhaps 165,000, are to be expected by calendar year’s end. Those numbers are similar to the Liberty’s figures from its heyday: an average of 167,000 were sold annually between 2002 and 2005, when Jeep’s lineup didn’t include a four-door Wrangler, a Patriot, or a Compass.

Excluding the Cherokee from Jeep’s sales tally this year sees the brand’s total volume fall from 392,390 units to 297,131 over the last seven months, or 25,449 more sales than the brand generated during the same period one year ago, a 9.4% increase.

In other words, without the Cherokee, Jeep is still a healthy brand, as the hugely inexpensive Compass and Patriot (up a combined 16% to 90,224 sales year-to-date) increase their volume, as the Grand Cherokee rises 9.4% to a Jeep-high 104,782 units, as total Wrangler volume jumps 10.8% to 102,125 units.

On the other hand, Jeep would not lay claim to Fastest Growing Auto Brand status.

Surprise of the day: expanded product ranges help. Mitsubishi, the next-fastest-growing brand, with a 28.9% year-to-date improvement, has produced meaningful volume gains only because of the Mirage. Without that car, which wasn’t on sale at this time last year, Mitsubishi is up just 1.3%. Talk about brands that have evolved. Or devolved. Eleven years ago, a 25.6% decline meant Mitsubishi sales fell below 257,000 units. In a vastly improved 2014, Mitsubishi might sell 80,000 new vehicles.

Jeep should top 650,000 U.S. sales by year’s end. Next year, with the Renegade assisting, we could be having this discussion again.

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Autoworkers, Agribusiness, and Algae: Toledo Back in Business, For Now http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/autoworkers-agribusiness-algae-toledo-back-business-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/autoworkers-agribusiness-algae-toledo-back-business-now/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 13:37:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881618 Toledo, Ohio has just squeaked by a major environmental crisis. A toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie poisoned the city’s water supply, leaving over 400,000 residents high and dry for three days. Restaurants, schools and businesses closed, the National Guard trucked in water, and the governor declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, Fiat-Chrysler had to […]

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Toledo, Ohio has just squeaked by a major environmental crisis. A toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie poisoned the city’s water supply, leaving over 400,000 residents high and dry for three days. Restaurants, schools and businesses closed, the National Guard trucked in water, and the governor declared a state of emergency. Meanwhile, Fiat-Chrysler had to resort to creative measures to keep its Toledo Jeep plant running.

Operations stayed on track at the Toledo complex, thanks to some quick thinking by management, and the dedication of line workers. According to a company spokesman, the plant used tanker trucks and bottled water to overcome the crisis and keep 5,000 employees sufficiently hydrated. Even a short closure of the plant would have been bad news for FCA. The Cherokee and the Wrangler are among the company’s fastest-selling and most profitable models, accounting for a major chunk of the partnership’s recent run into the black.

With the ban on tap water now lifted, the worst of the crisis seems to be over. Even so, the threat to the Lake Erie watershed and the millions of people who depend on it still looms. Toledo’s water was poisoned with microcystin, a byproduct of blue-green algae. The toxin causes liver failure at fairly low concentrations. It’s difficult to filter out, especially at high concentrations. And it can’t be removed via boiling- that only concentrates the poison. In other words, it’s a public health nightmare and nearly as bad for business as a power outage. Preventing the blue-green algae is the only realistic prophylactic, which itself has been a decades-long struggle in the most polluted of the Great Lakes.

Blue-green algae primarily feeds off phosphorous and other organic pollutants. In the 60s and 70s, the primary source of these pollutants were the cities and industrial establishments on the Lake Erie shore. Untreated sewage and industrial byproducts choked the lake, eventually leading to fish kills and toxic blooms. The situation turned around in the 80s, after regulation and billion-dollar cleanups helped remedy the pollution. In the 90s, though, the situation began to reverse course. New farming techniques relied on heavy application of phosphorous and other fertilizers. This produced increased yields, but increased the inflow of organic pollutants into the lake. Zebra mussels also invaded the lake after 1988, producing more phosphorous and contributing to a vicious cycle of algae production. It wasn’t long until the algae blooms reared their ugly heads yet again.

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                  In 2011, Lake Erie suffered one of its worst blooms ever. Nearly a sixth of the lake’s surface was covered in algae, almost 2,000 square miles. Phosphorous was again the culprit, but it alone wasn’t enough to explain the bloom’s severity. Instead, scientists point to climate change: specifically, the warming of Lake Erie’s waters. Warm water combined with torrential rains produced the catastrophic algae bloom, as more pollutants washed into Lake Erie from farmland. Scientists now fear that a combination of pollutants and changes in Lake Erie’s ecology could lead to more frequent algal bloom events. Unless something is done to rein in the green tide, more drinking water bans could be in the future for the communities that draw their supply from the lake.

What does that mean for the regional auto industry? Several major auto plants and their suppliers operate in the Lake Erie watershed area, in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Toledo. In addition, much of Lake Erie is a major commercial route for freight shipping. Many parts of the automobile production process are highly water-intensive, such as painting and steelmaking. Obviously, the standards for drinking water and water for industrial uses are quite different. But if a city like Cleveland is forced to shut down its water treatment system entirely in response to an algal bloom, it would spell big trouble for automakers with facilities in the area. The welfare of the workers is another factor to consider. Toledo Jeep dodged a bullet this time, but in future water crises it might not be so lucky.

The economic vitality of the Lake Erie region depends on ensuring the health of the lake. That became apparent after the infamous 1969 Cuyahoga River fire, which embarrassed Ohio residents and hurt the local economy. There’s been an enormous amount of progress since then, but new technologies present new challenges. Clamping down on the algae blooms is essential to ensuring the competitiveness of the industries around Lake Erie. The environment and the industrial world are never completely divorced from one another.

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Chrysler Group Asks For Hitch Production Boost Amid NHTSA Inquiry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chrysler-group-asks-for-hitch-production-boost-amid-nhtsa-inquiry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chrysler-group-asks-for-hitch-production-boost-amid-nhtsa-inquiry/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870010 A day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked what was taking so long for a supplier to make enough hitches to cover 2.5 million recalled vehicles, Chrysler Group ordered its supplier to boost production. Automotive News reports the inquiry, sent July 2, noted that it would take five years for Chrysler to repair […]

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A day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked what was taking so long for a supplier to make enough hitches to cover 2.5 million recalled vehicles, Chrysler Group ordered its supplier to boost production.

Automotive News reports the inquiry, sent July 2, noted that it would take five years for Chrysler to repair all 2.5 million 1993 – 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 – 2007 Libertys with trailer hitches meant to minimize the potential for fuel tank ruptures and fires in low-speed rear-end accidents. In turn, Chrysler told supplier Northern Stamping Inc. to raise its daily production rate from 2,205 to 3,511 hitches.

The affected vehicles will be able to be equipped with the hitches beginning August 1, with the last ones to receive theirs by March of 2015.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Jeep Wrangler Sport S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-jeep-wrangler-sport-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-jeep-wrangler-sport-s/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:30:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868346   A common complaint among the Best & Brightest is that certain consumer oriented publications don’t get the Jeep Wrangler. America’s sports car, as Enzo Ferrari once labeled it, is unfairly docked for performing poorly on-road, without taking into account that its mission is to excel off-road. Even though I’ve driven off-road precisely twice in my life, […]

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A common complaint among the Best & Brightest is that certain consumer oriented publications don’t get the Jeep Wrangler. America’s sports car, as Enzo Ferrari once labeled it, is unfairly docked for performing poorly on-road, without taking into account that its mission is to excel off-roadEven though I’ve driven off-road precisely twice in my life, I decided to get to the heart of the matter.

Most press vehicles are fully-loaded, top trim examples with abnormally high sticker prices and all the bells and whistles that one can possibly order. Not this baby.

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The Wrangler Sport seen here has – get ready for it – manual locks, crank windows, no touch screen and an honest-to-god manual transmission. In any other car, this level of equipment would bear the odious stench of poverty and poor credit. In a Jeep, it’s somewhat charming. The UConnect 130 is an old-school head unit unlike the rest of the range, with knobs and buttons replacing touch screens and QNX software. There’s an auxiliary port and a hidden USB port – you’re better off using the former if you want to play your music off of an iPod.

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As refreshing as it may be to see an honest Wrangler on paved roads, rather than a top-spec Mickey Thompson-shod Unlimited Rubicon, there’s still the unavoidable fact that no Wrangler is particularly pleasant to drive on the street. It’s simply not made for it, in the same way that a McLaren 650S, with its carbon fiber bodywork, shouldn’t be driven on a dirt road pockmarked with rocks and divots.

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Unfortunately, the majority of our infrastructure does consist of paved roads, and depending on their condition, the Wrangler’s ride quality ranges from “oscillating” to “back of the school bus”, in terms of how severely it crashes and bounds over bumps, ripples and potholes.

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Is it my own damn fault that I’m driving the Wrangler in an environment that is totally unsuitable for the car? Yes, but, I’d venture to say that the majority of these vehicles are driven in urban and suburban areas, and buyers hardly seem to care – or they put up with the Wrangler’s dynamic drawbacks because of its aesthetic appeal and rugged image.

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That’s not to say it’s all negative: with its small footprint and ultra-high driving position, you get a good view of the road, even if the Wrangler isn’t the most nimble-footed beast. Parking is a cinch relative to a lot of other SUVs, and the rear can be used for either human or material cargo in a pinch – but not necessarily both. That distinctive shape may give it tough-guy “Defender-lite” looks, but it also has the aerodynamics of a garden shed, and fuel economy in town was dismal, around 15 mpg.

The sole glaring drawback is with the removable soft top, which is needlessly complex to operate and poorly explained in the instruction manual. I will cop to being a bit dense when it comes to manual tasks that require pattern recognition, and the multiple latches, zippers, tabs and closures required to raise and lower the roof are my own idea of hell. Perhaps I was under the mistaken impression that should one get caught in a rain storm, one could simply pull over by the side of the road, hop out and raise the top, like you can in a Miata. I was wrong, and my passenger and I got a 55 mph baptismal thanks to my ineptitude. At the very least, Jeep should look into a new technical writer for their owner’s manual.

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Despite the myriad flaws and unsuitability for my own driving conditions, I kept coming back to the Wrangler with an overriding sense of affection. Car enthusiasts talk about the purity of the XJ Cherokee and the Mazda Miata as if they are two sides of the same enthusiast vehicle proposition, and always seem to skip over the one that started it all. But here we have an honest-to-god basic vehicle, made in America, for $25,295 (if you don’t need A/C, a base model sport is just $22,395) that has charm and authenticity in spades. The Wrangler is not for everyone – and certainly not for me. But Jeep manages to sell every example they make, and consumers seem utterly unaffected by these negative reports.

 

 

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FCA Is Hungry For Diesels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fca-is-hungry-for-diesels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fca-is-hungry-for-diesels/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:22:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860921   Fiat Chrysler is hungry for more 3.0L VM Motori V6 diesel engines, but capacity constraints are limiting how many engines can be allocated for North America. VM Motori, a subsidiary of FCA, can build about 100,000 V6 diesel engines, with about half of those destined for North America. The V6 is offered in both […]

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2014-Ram-1500-diese-logo-450x337Fiat Chrysler is hungry for more 3.0L VM Motori V6 diesel engines, but capacity constraints are limiting how many engines can be allocated for North America.

VM Motori, a subsidiary of FCA, can build about 100,000 V6 diesel engines, with about half of those destined for North America. The V6 is offered in both the Ram 1500 pickup as well as the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

But a report in Automotive News paints an interesting picture of the demand for the V6 in each vehicle. The take rate for diesel Grand Cherokees has leveled off at about 8 percent, or 15,000 units annually.

By contrast, Ram boss Reid Bigland claims that

“We got well in excess of 10,000 orders in just the first few days that we opened this thing up, and that ordering and demand has really sustained itself,”

According to Bigland, the EcoDiesel Ram 1500s spend an average of 13 days on dealer lots, versus 94 days for gasoline versions. A search of Cars.com shows just 1,839 EcoDiesel Rams, but 3,907 Grand Cherokees, suggesting that the Ram (which sells in much bigger numbers) has a much tighter supply of their oil-burners.

Even so, Manley and Bigland denied that they are horse trading over diesel allocation for their respective brands.

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Next-Generation Jeep Wrangler To Take Fight To Soft-Roaders, Hold Rubicon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860793 With more SUVs preferring the high street over muddy, rocky trails, Jeep boss Mike Manley plans for the next-generation Wrangler to better compete against these soft-roaders while still maintaining its Rubicon cred. Automotive News reports Manley’s plan to include “continued improvements of the powertrain package,” which may mean being fitted with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic and […]

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With more SUVs preferring the high street over muddy, rocky trails, Jeep boss Mike Manley plans for the next-generation Wrangler to better compete against these soft-roaders while still maintaining its Rubicon cred.

Automotive News reports Manley’s plan to include “continued improvements of the powertrain package,” which may mean being fitted with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic and either a smaller gasoline engine than the current 3.6-liter V6 or a diesel like that found in Ram’s 1500 EcoDiesel.

Regarding weight, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes aluminium would be another key ingredient in not only bringing down weight, but improving fuel economy on top of the aforementioned powertrain upgrades.

As for the solid front and rear axles that give the Wrangler its off-road prowess to compensate for increased weight and rougher highway travel, Manley didn’t say whether or not they would stay for the next generation of the iconic vehicle — due sometime in 2017 at the earliest — though he vowed Jeep would not “dilute what Wrangler stands for,” citing his killing of the two-wheel-drive Wrangler upon taking the brand’s reins.

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Capsule Review: Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-jeep-grand-cherokee-ecodiesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-jeep-grand-cherokee-ecodiesel/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 16:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848298 To most North American consumers, diesel is an exotic powertrain option, full of promise when it comes to torque and efficiency. It rarely delivers on the promise. Based on our impressions of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the same 3.0L V6 fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee seemed to be extremely promising – especially now that […]

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To most North American consumers, diesel is an exotic powertrain option, full of promise when it comes to torque and efficiency. It rarely delivers on the promise.

Based on our impressions of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the same 3.0L V6 fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee seemed to be extremely promising – especially now that gas prices have spiked to record highs. But something was lost in the transition from truck to SUV.

The most jarring difference is the lack of smoothness that won us over in the Ram. The same engine that is nearly silent and effortlessly smooth in the Ram seems to have a much more audible, agricultural note, with inferior NVH characteristics. Somehow, the leisure-oriented SUV ends up feeling more like the work vehicle.

Diesel die-hards may shrug this off as panty-waist behavior from someone not used to compression ignition engines, but convincing customers to spend the extra $4,500 is going to be a tough sell for anyone who didn’t buy a diesel Grand Cherokee last time around. Especially when they hit the remote start only to be greeted with a school-bus soundtrack on cold starts.

That’s not to say that there are only drawbacks with the diesel. There is prodigious torque on tap (420 lb-ft, and 240 horsepower), and all that power is a great match for the silky smooth 8-speed ZF gearbox. Even compared to the 5.7L Hemi, passing is effortless at speed, while highway cruising tends to downplay the drivetrain noise. Only the woosh of the turbo is heard when you summon the prodigious twist of the VM Motori V6.

The rest of the car, like all Grand Cherokees, is superb. The steering has more feel than many passenger cars, while the air suspension gives superb ride characteristics on any road. I am on record as being UConnect’s biggest fan, and I can think of no better car to cover long distances in. Except for a gasoline powered Grand Cherokee.

Even though the EcoDiesel returned about 27 mpg (and that’s cruising at 75 mph with the A/C on – the EPA rates it at 28 mpg highway), I would find it hard to justify buying anything beyond the Pentastar V6/8-speed combo, similar to what Jack’s father bought.

If you are doing serious towing, or covering enough miles to justify the added cost of the diesel engine (and the higher resale value of the diesel should also help), then perhaps it makes sense. For myself, and many other consumers, the V6, V8 – hell, even the SRT – models will make more sense, given how quickly the higher trim level Summit models with the EcoDiesel can breach the $60k barrier.

As far as I’m concerned, the Grand Cherokee is still the best SUV on sale at any price. It has just the right mix of luxury, performance and discretion to be appropriate in any environment. The driving experience is more in line with premium European offerings than anything built by America or Japan. And given all this, I had high hopes for the diesel, and it did deliver on the promise of V8-like power with much better fuel economy. But I’m not sure it’s the all-purpose solution that many people were expecting. For me, that would be a nicely equipped Laredo with the gasoline V6.

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Subaru Behind Jeep, Ram As Most Off-Roaded Automaker http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/subaru-behind-jeep-ram-as-most-off-roaded-automaker/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/subaru-behind-jeep-ram-as-most-off-roaded-automaker/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857073 Jeep may be the first thing to come to mind when the idea of going off-road comes up in conversation, but when taking a trip from Los Angeles to that secret pool/art installation in the middle of the desert, you might find a Subaru waiting nearby. Autoblog reports the automaker’s vehicles are the third most […]

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Jeep may be the first thing to come to mind when the idea of going off-road comes up in conversation, but when taking a trip from Los Angeles to that secret pool/art installation in the middle of the desert, you might find a Subaru waiting nearby.

Autoblog reports the automaker’s vehicles are the third most off-roaded in a 2013 J.D. Power study, where 29.5 percent can be found departing the highway for the trail; only Ram and Jeep bested Subaru at 30.2 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Subaru’s director of corporate communications, Michael McHale, added that owners of his company’s offerings were “190 percent more likely to do outdoor activities than other brands,” meriting those treks off the beaten path.

Regarding individual vehicles, the Outback sees the highest use in the dust and mud at 34.7 percent. Meanwhile, most Jeep Grand Cherokee owners prefer the high street over high peaks, with only 21.1 percent deciding to experience just how “trail-rated” their SUVs are. The Outback is also among Subaru’s top three best-selling vehicles in 2013, sandwiched between the Forester and the XV Crosstek as the automaker celebrated its sixth consecutive year of record sales; 424,683 units were sold in the United States alone that year.

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Don’t Hold Your Breath For A Diesel Jeep Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/dont-hold-your-breath-for-a-diesel-jeep-cherokee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/dont-hold-your-breath-for-a-diesel-jeep-cherokee/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 12:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853345 The Jeep Grand Cherokee received a diesel option earlier this year, but don’t look for the Cherokee to get one any time soon – at least not in North America. Speaking to Automotive News, Manley said that while the Grand Cherokee diesel take rate is about 8 percent, that number would have to increase before the […]

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee received a diesel option earlier this year, but don’t look for the Cherokee to get one any time soon – at least not in North America.

Speaking to Automotive News, Manley said that while the Grand Cherokee diesel take rate is about 8 percent, that number would have to increase before the Cherokee could get a diesel

“Cherokee is slightly different because of its weight and size. When I think about bringing Cherokee diesel here, I would like to see Grand Cherokee diesel get much higher than 8 percent…It would have to be in mid-double digits.”

While a diesel Cherokee likely has many fans on the internet, reality is more complex. A diesel Cherokee would have to sell in sufficient numbers to meet very stringent U.S. regulations, and would have to come in at a pricepoint that is palatable to American buyers. In the Grand Cherokee, the diesel carries a $4,500 premium.

There’s also the matter of capacity. With Jeep building about 250,000 units globally at its Toledo, Ohio plant, they may not have room to mess with the current model mix by adding a diesel. The Cherokee may not be tops on the compact CUV sales charts, sales are brisk and inventories are well controlled. Jeep is likely selling every Cherokee they can produce for the U.S. market, and a diesel may not be necessary – yet.

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Select 2015 Chrysler 200, Jeep Cherokee Models To Receive Stop-Start http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/select-2015-chrysler-200-jeep-cherokee-models-to-receive-stop-start/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/select-2015-chrysler-200-jeep-cherokee-models-to-receive-stop-start/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852065 A select group of 2015 Chrysler 200s and Jeep Cherokees will enter showrooms with stop-start technology on-board later this year. Automotive News reports Chrysler Group will install the tech in Cherokees equipped with its 3.2-liter V6 in Q3 2014, while 200s with the 2.4-liter I4 will receive it in Q4 2014. Cherokees with the 2.4 […]

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A select group of 2015 Chrysler 200s and Jeep Cherokees will enter showrooms with stop-start technology on-board later this year.

Automotive News reports Chrysler Group will install the tech in Cherokees equipped with its 3.2-liter V6 in Q3 2014, while 200s with the 2.4-liter I4 will receive it in Q4 2014. Cherokees with the 2.4 and 200s with the 3.6 V6 will not have stop-start aboard.

With stop-start, the Cherokee will net 19 mpg in the city at its most fuel-efficient configuration. The 200 fares slightly better at 23 mpg for its most efficient model.

Both the sedan and crossover share the same platform and a number of components, including Chrysler’s new nine-speed automatic transmission.

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Jeep Re-Builds UK Dealer Network In Advance Of Cherokee Launch http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jeep-re-builds-uk-dealer-network-in-advance-of-cherokee-launch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jeep-re-builds-uk-dealer-network-in-advance-of-cherokee-launch/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851425 For a brief stretch of time, Jeep did business in the UK as a purveyor of authentic American SUVs. The Cherokee, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee had a respected niche, even if they didn’t sell in particularly large numbers. And then it all went down the tubes. According to Just-Auto, Jeep lost over half their dealer network […]

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For a brief stretch of time, Jeep did business in the UK as a purveyor of authentic American SUVs. The Cherokee, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee had a respected niche, even if they didn’t sell in particularly large numbers. And then it all went down the tubes.

According to Just-Auto, Jeep lost over half their dealer network in 2012, creating a problem for Jeep’s UK division. Major ad campaigns were useless, since it was impossible to advertise when franchises could be situated far away from major population centers.

But with the introduction of the Grand Cherokee, Jeep has rebounded. Sales are up 70 percent, and by year end, there should be over 70 dealers in the UK. The next step is the launch of the Cherokee, which Jeep is ambitiously positioning as a rival to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, as well as the smaller Renegade. Sound crazy? Perhaps. But don’t forget, these are premium vehicles in much of the world.

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NHTSA Investigates Chrysler Group Air Bag, Ignition Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846881 General Motors no longer has the monopoly on ignition and air bag problems, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group over those very issues. Detroit Free Press reports the agency has opened two investigations into 1.2 million vehicles as follows: 2005 – 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2006 […]

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General Motors no longer has the monopoly on ignition and air bag problems, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group over those very issues.

Detroit Free Press reports the agency has opened two investigations into 1.2 million vehicles as follows:

  • 2005 – 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2006 – 2007 Jeep Commander: Faulty air bags; 700,000 under preliminary investigation
  • 2008 – 2010 Dodge Journey; 2010 Chrysler Town & Country; 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan: Ignition switches shifting out of “on” position; 525,000 under recall query

The NHTSA received 23 complaints over air bags problems, though none involved non-deployment, and 32 complaints about the ignition switch. Both parties are working to find any links to the problems, though no more information has been made available thus far.

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Jeep’s Nine-Speed Undergoes Second Reflash For 100k Cherokees http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/jeeps-nine-speed-undergoes-second-reflash-for-100k-cherokees/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/jeeps-nine-speed-undergoes-second-reflash-for-100k-cherokees/#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 10:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834313 Remember the nine-speed transmission in the new Jeep Cherokee that gave our rising superstar managing editor a hard time, followed by everyone else giving him a hard time about the truth of this car before walking back their statements in light of their seeing the light? More than 100,000 of the crossovers built before May […]

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Remember the nine-speed transmission in the new Jeep Cherokee that gave our rising superstar managing editor a hard time, followed by everyone else giving him a hard time about the truth of this car before walking back their statements in light of their seeing the light? More than 100,000 of the crossovers built before May 5 will need theirs readjusted.

Automotive News reports the software in the affected units will be subject to a five-minute software reflash, followed by a 78-minute test drive to ensure the transmission’s ability to learn how its owner drives is no longer hindered by digital bugs. While all owners will not need to bring their vehicles in for the work, those who do feel their transmission is lacking will have the fix covered for free under warranty.

The nine-speed, which also feeds power to the front and/or all four corners of the 2015 Chrysler 200, has been reflashed once before, and problems early on led to a delay in the introduction of the new Cherokee to sort out the kinks. For what it’s worth, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne isn’t concerned about what may be dinging the quality of the new transmission:

There are always teething issues with every transmission I’ve ever built, and I mean that literally. We keep tuning the transmission more and more as we get more familiar with it.

I’m never satisfied, but I think I’m OK with its application in the current car. It will get better six months from now, trust me.

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Marchionne: Aluminium Better Used In Wrangler Over Ram 1500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionne-aluminium-better-used-in-wrangler-over-ram-1500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionne-aluminium-better-used-in-wrangler-over-ram-1500/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819721 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne may be watching Ford experiment aluminium-bodied pickups from afar, but as far as the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is concerned, the lightweight metal may wind up on the iconic vehicle before the Ram 1500 considers taking the plunge. Automotive News reports Jeep’s engineers and designers are already at work finalizing […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne may be watching Ford experiment aluminium-bodied pickups from afar, but as far as the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is concerned, the lightweight metal may wind up on the iconic vehicle before the Ram 1500 considers taking the plunge.

Automotive News reports Jeep’s engineers and designers are already at work finalizing design work for the next-gen Wrangler, set to enter production in 2017. Based on recent job postings, the brand as an eye on dropping weight for the vehicle as part of its plan to meet ever-tightening CAFE goals. The current Wrangler holds an average of 17 city/21 highway while weighing anywhere from 3,785 to 4,340 pounds depending on trim, while the new Cherokee 4×4 — based on a lighter foundation — pulls 19 city/25 highway at a weight of 4,044 pounds.

Other key components of the plan on the table include an eight-speed automatic and an expanded lineup of fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel powerplants.

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Analysis: The Definitive Guide To The Fiat Chrysler 5-Year Plan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/analysis-the-definitive-guide-to-the-fiat-chrysler-5-year-plan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/analysis-the-definitive-guide-to-the-fiat-chrysler-5-year-plan/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 22:34:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=816249 Wednesday marks the 16th anniversary of the Daimler-Chrysler merger. One day prior to this milestone, Fiat Chrysler has unveiled their business plan for the next 5 years. While the industry norm is to keep future product plans, brand strategies and sales targets as a closely guarded secret, FCA took the unusual step of making it […]

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Wednesday marks the 16th anniversary of the Daimler-Chrysler merger. One day prior to this milestone, Fiat Chrysler has unveiled their business plan for the next 5 years. While the industry norm is to keep future product plans, brand strategies and sales targets as a closely guarded secret, FCA took the unusual step of making it all public, with FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne headlining the event (billed as a conference for investors) at an event in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Each of FCA’s brands and subsidiaries was given the chance to present their strategy through 2018, with healthy helpings of new vehicles, future technology and corporate strategy being revealed.

ChryslerCurrently, the Chrysler brand is arguably the weakest in FCA’s portfolio, with just three offerings – the D-segment Chrysler 200, the E-segment Chrysler 300 and the Town and Country minivan. Combined, those account for just 350,000 units globally, a tiny number in the context of a 16 or 17 million unit market in the United States alone. As part of its growth plan, Chrysler will shift away from being a pseudo-premium brand to a mainstream line, aiming to compete with brands like Ford, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Toyota and Honda. The brand will add a new compact sedan, and two new crossovers, as well as hybrid capability on the larger CUV and the Town & Country minivan. Chrysler is aiming to increase sales to 800,000 units globally by 2018, equal to its best years ever in America, in the middle of the last decade – but Chrysler will be relying on stronger global sales to reach this number.

  • The Chrysler 100 sedan will debut in 2016, ostensibly as a sister car to the Dodge Dart. While details were not revealed, we can expect both the 1.4L Turbo 4-cylinder engine, as well as the 2.4L 4-cylinder paired to a 9-speed automatic. Although the latter combination was promised for the Dart long ago, it has failed to materialize. The Dart is scheduled for a 2016 refresh, and the 2.4L/9-speed could appear at that time.
  • The Chrysler 300 will receive a refresh later this year, while the 200 will get one in 2017.
  • A larger crossover, sized to compete with the Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse, launches in 2017. This will likely share a platform with the Chrysler Town & Country minivan, due to its footprint and its plug-in hybrid capability.
  • A mid-size crossover, comparable to the Hyundai Santa Fe or Ford Edge, bows in 2018. This will likely share the CUSW underpinnings of the Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee.
  • The Chrysler Town & Country will be the sole minivan in FCA’s portfolio, bowing in 2016. It will be available as a plug-in hybrid to help meet regulatory requirements for ZEVs.

Dodge: In the “internal turf war” for mainstream volume offerings, Dodge is the clear loser. The upshot for enthusiasts is that Dodge will transition to being a more emotional and performance oriented brand, while still retaining its price point as a mainstream value brand. As part of Chrysler’s consolidation and push for “brand purity”, the Grand Caravan and Avenger will disappear, with the former departing in 2016. Dodge sales are expected to stay flat, with 600,000 units targeted in 2018 – Dodge sold roughly 596,000 units in 2013, and is expected to see lower volumes in the intermittent years.

  • A new B-segment Dodge will debut in 2018, offering both sedan and hatchback bodystyles, as well as undisclosed turbocharged engines. Previous rumors have suggested that a small Dodge would carry the Hornet name.
  • The Dart will soldier on until 2016, with FCA planning to market the car with aggressive leases and better content. 2016 will bring cosmetic changes as well as improvements to the driving dynamics and powertrains. A Dart SRT, with a high-performance turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, will bow at the end of 2016.
  • A replacement for the Dodge Journey – including an SRT version – will bow in mid-2016.
  • All-new versions of the Dodge Charger and Challenger will bow in 2018 (alongside a new Chrysler 300), with SRT versions arriving at the end of 2018.
  • The Dodge Durango will continue through 2018, though it may disappear to make room for a three-row Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
  • The SRT Viper will become a Dodge again, and carry on through 2018.

FerrariFCA CEO Sergio Marchionne presented Ferrari’s outline, which was light on product plans. Ferrari will cap production at 7,000 units per year, introducing one new model every year. There are provisions to increase capacity to 10,000 units annually, and each model will be on a four year cycle, with updated variants (think 458 Speciale) launched as well. While Marchionne stressed that “Ferrari is not for sale”.

With a volume of 10,000 units, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) is estimated to be around $1 billion for Ferrari alone, thanks to its three custom car lines (which presumably generates huge margins) and the extremely lucrative revenue stream built into the brand – its merchandising and licensing business. Ferrari licenses its brand to everything from laptops to athletic apparel to model cars, and these are frequently sold as luxury goods. By comparison, Marchionne noted that conventional luxury good companies are often valued at 9x-12x EBITDA – and his presentation made explicit mention of Ferrari’s target of 15 percent gross margin, and an apparent valuation of between 3.3 and 5.4 billion euros.

FiatFiat’s presentation was the most confusing, with the brand eschewing the unidirectional approach taken by the other marques in FCA’s portfolio. A more apt-description is that Fiat is the exact opposite of “One Ford”, with the brand offering distinct product for NAFTA, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

  • Fiat will dump the Suzuki SX4-based Sedici (replaced by the Fiat 500L) and the C-segment Fiat Bravo (replaced by the Fiat 500/Panda).
  • Future product will straddle the line between functional, mainstream transportation with a “cool” bent (mostly in Europe and other developed world markets) and a novel, European brand (NAFTA). This dichotomy was presented in the form of the Fiat 124 and 124 Sport (a family car and a sports car) and the smaller Uno being sold alongside the dramatic, performance oriented Fiat Coupe of the mid-1990s.
  • In Brazil and Latin America, Fiat will shed many of its legacy nameplates, including the Palio, Siena and Linea. They will be replaced with a new A-segment car, a new Uno, a Punto/Palio replacement, a new Grand Siena, a new compact CUV and a new pickup, as well as the Strada small pickup.
  • Fiat will bring the Renegade-based 500X crossover to North America, as well as a “Speciality” product, presumed to be a Fiat/Abarth branded sports car, based off the next Mazda MX-5.

JeepJeep is one of FCA’s profit centers, and the SUV brand will undergo a major re-orientation from a NAFTA-centric maker of rough-and-ready SUVs to a global brand composed of both crossovers and traditional off-road vehicles. Jeep will transofrm from a brand of 800,000 American-made vehicles to one with manufacturing facilities in the USA, Brazil, India, China and the EU, with sales projections of 1.9 million units globally. Jeep will gain 9 new plants in 5 new countries .

  • Jeep will introduce a new replacement for the Compass and Patriot in 2016, consolidated under one nameplate.
  • The Grand Wagoneer will return in 2018 as a three-row vehicle, potentially replacing the Dodge Durango.
  • A new Wrangler and Grand Cherokee will bow in 2017.

MaseratiAlong with Alfa Romeo, Maserati will be positioned as a premium performance brand, with new product offerings. Although the Levante SUV is still on, more details were released about the Alfieri Coupe and Convertible. Maserati is aiming to increase sales from 15,000 to 75,000 units.

  • The Alfieri will offer turbocharged V6 (410, 450 and 520 horsepower), and all-wheel drive. Rear drive will be available only on the lower output V6 model.
  • The Levante will offer 350 and 425 horsepower V6 engines and a 560 horsepower V8 as well as a range of diesels.

Alfa Romeo: After nearly a decade of broken promises, we have yet another Alfa Romeo product plant that is being presented as the savoir of this once hallowed brand. Alfa Romeo’s narrative has always been grander than its financial success, but things are particularly dismal, with sales below 200,000 units and a lineup of just two small, front-drive hatchbacks and a low volume sports car.

As part of Alfa’s latest revival attempt, the brand has been transformed into what it dubs a “skunk works”, akin to what Chrysler wanted to do with SRT – create an independent workshop that is conducive to experimentation and creativity, free from bureaucracy and rigid corporate processes. Alfa’s top bosses are two Ferrari engineers, with a staff of 200 hand-picked individuals, which FCA hopes to expand to 600 by 2015.

  • Alfa is aiming to launch 8 new products by 2018, with a range of 4 and 6-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. Alfas will be exclusively rear or all-wheel drive.
  • The first new vehicle, a mid-size sedan, will bow in 2015. From there, a full-size sedan, two CUVs and a new “speciality” car will debut by 2018.
  • The Mito and Giulietta compacts will die.
  • FCA is aiming for 400,000 units by 2018, including 150,000 units in the United States.

RamAs one of FCA’s other big profit centers, Ram is a key brand for the company, but exists largely in the NAFTA region. The half-ton trucks will see a refresh in 2015, along with a redesign in 2017, with heavy-duty trucks getting freshened in alternate years. Aluminum will likely not be a part of the new trucks, as Ram feels that the diesel half-ton truck is competitive against Ford’s aluminum RAM, and has been downplaying the durability and cost-effectiveness of the aluminum F-150. On the commercial vehicle front, a small Ram ProMaster City, based on the Fiat Doblo, bows this year.

Powertrains and Architectures:

While auto makers like Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan are moving to radical solutions for platform consolidation, FCA’s plan showed little evidence of any move to substantially combine existing product architectures. Currently, FCA has 18 vehicle architectures, with the top 4 platforms accounting for just under half of total volume, 12 architectures representing 95 percent of volume. By 2018, this number will shrink to just 15 architectures, with the top for accounting for 70 percent of volume, and 9 architectures accounting for 95 percent of volume.

Proportionally, this is not much of a reduction, and it lags far behind Volkswagen’s strategy of just 4 modular “kits”. FCA also lacks the level of scale and volume that VW has, which would make it easier to absorb the costs and inefficiencies that come with having so many different architectures. FCA discussed its goals of bringing down costs via better purchasing practices, more shared components (like lighting, HVAC systems and interior pieces), but their plan for increasing efficiencies via shared architectures was markedly less sophisticated than much of the competition. Given the importance of achieving significant economies of scale in the future (a topic that Sergio Marchionne frequently expounds on), it was surprising to see FCA unveil a plan that is already behind the times relative to the larger OEMs that it must compete with.

On the powertrain front, FCA is downplaying the importance of fuel cell and EV powertrains, introducing EVs for regulatory compliance in the USA. Plug-in hybrids will trickle into the lineup in future, as will mild-hybrid technology like start-stop systems and Belt Starter Generators. FCA dismissed fuel cells as a non-viable alternative, and said that CNG and diesel will play a role in world markets more than in NAFTA. FCA will continue to buy emissions credits in the interim.

FinanceWhile much of the presentation material was focused on global issues, two things stood out.

  • FCA will continue to use Santander as its captive arm, and will not start a new one.
  • The overall tone regarding subprime financing was bullish, with executives dismissive suggestions of any systemic issues.

Sales and Global Markets: Separate presentations were conducted for Asia, Latin America, Europe and NAFTA regions.

  • In the NAFTA region, FCA sold 2.1 million units in 2013, and is projecting a steady increase in the U.S. SAAR, rising to 17 million units by 2018.  By that time, FCA is looking to sell another 1 million units in the NAFTA zone and increase exports by 33 percent to 380,000 units. However, no capacity increases were discussed for NAFTA, and Marchionne commented on his distaste for two-tier wages in the UAW, suggesting that profit sharing was an option in the future. Difficulties negotiating with organized labor could spell trouble for FCA’s plans.
  • In Europe, FCA has seen sales decline by over half since 2010, while capacity utilization has declined from over 100 percent to around 67 percent – a dangerously low level for a volume auto maker. Fiat’s home market of Italy was among the hardest hit, and Europe’s 13.8 million vehicle market in 2013 is at its lowest levels since 2007. FCA now has to reposition Fiat not just as an Italian mainstream brand, but one that fits the current paradigm where “cool” budget brands like Dacia and premium brands like Audi are stealing market share with their offerings that encroach on the turf of volume vehicles. Higher margin brands like Jeep, Alfa Romeo and certain Fiat products (like the 500) are their weapons of choice, as FCA aims for an increase from 1.1 million in 2013 to 1.5 million units by 2018.
  • In Latin America, FCA is well established in Brazil and Argentina, with multiple assembly plants in the two countries running at over 100 percent capacity. FCA expects the market to grow from 5.9 million units this year to 6.9 million units in 2018, with most of that growth coming from Brazil, a country where Fiat is the closest thing to a national brand. Jeep is also expected to be a strong player, with Brazilian production of the Renegade expected to start in 2015. FCA is planning to increase sales from 900,000 units this year to 1.3 million units in 2018. Fiat is expected to account for 1.1 million units, Jeep for 200,000 units and other brands making up the remainder.
  • Asia, India, Australia and other Pacific markets are also being given increasing attention by FCA, with China remaining the dominant market at 28 million units. FCA expects India to overtake Japan as its second largest market by 2018, with 5 million units annually. While FCA projects an increase from 200,000 units in 2013 to 1.1 million units by 2018, on the back of strong sales of Jeep crossovers in India and China, as well as a wide new range of Fiat product. The only question is – how will they pay for all this new product?

Conclusion:

FCA’s day-long meeting was an anomaly in the industry, providing car enthusiasts with a detailed look at future product offerings, and intense discussions of FCA’s various brands and their respective visions. No other OEM is so candid with their upcoming debuts, and FCA deserves praise for setting a positive example for other OEMs.

But dig a little deeper, and many important questions remain answered.

  • FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne is one of the biggest advocates for the necessity of economics of scale via increasing volumes, yet his plan for reducing the number of architectures looks amateur compared to the extremely aggressive plans laid out by archrival Volkswagen. While VWs global volume was 9.7 million units in 2013, it is paring down its architectures to just 4. Meanwhile, FCA, which sold 1.5 million units globally in 2013, will have 15 architectures and volumes of 5.7 million units worldwide. Compared to VW, Nissan, Toyota and even General Motors (which has a sophisticated set of architectures for its global products), FCA’s strategy seems bloated, if not obsolete, from Day 1.
  • FCA is all-in on the internal combustion engine, and is only just dipping its toe into the water of plug-in vehicles, with a plug-in hybrid. EVs are solely produced to appease regulators, and fuel cell vehicles are not in the cards. Even long-time advocates of the internal combustion engine have some kind of ZEV program (such as Hyundai, which has a fuel-cell program). This is a risky gambit, with significant upside and downside potential. Many EV programs aren’t going as well as OEMs had hoped, but FCA could be left in the dust in terms of R&D.
  •  FCA is dangerously reliant on both Jeep and RAM for their profits. A 2008-like combination of spiking gas prices and a downturn in the economy (especially housing starts, which are a key driver of pickup sales) could leave FCA exposed to both falling demand for gas-guzzling trucks and have a severe impact on the high numbers of FCA vehicles financed via subprime rates. These less credit-worthy borrowers would likely be the first to default on their payments, and a mass repossession of FCA vehicles could be another blow at an inopportune time.
  • There has been no mention of how the substantial increase in NAFTA sales will come without any additional NAFTA capacity (something Sergio Marchionne has previously sworn off). Jeeps imported from Italy and Brazil (and even China) could be an option, but booming sales of Ram trucks couldn’t be built anywhere else. Marchionne’s comments about his distaste for two-tier wages could also spell trouble for his hourly workforce when it’s time to negotiate their contracts in 2016.
  • Who is financing all of the(mostly Fiat) new product earmarked for Asia? And why all this talk of Ferrari’s value if the company is not for sale?
  • Is Alfa really going to sell 150,000 units (volumes comparable to Audi) in America? Even the most dewey-eyed Alfa diehards in the industry find that to be a bit of a stretch.

Marchionne and FCA have been known to say one thing and then completely change direction, miss deadlines and dodge questions about missing deliverables (the 9-speed Dart is the automotive world’s Jimmy Hoffa). But they’ve also presented an admirable turnaround for a once-ailing car maker, even when the rest of the world was prepared to write them off. Yes, one may argue that Marchionne and Fiat bought Chrysler’s assets for a song, and that the road has at times been rocky. But a decade ago, plans for Jeep’s global expansion, Ram’s possible conquest of GM trucks and a thriving line of Chrysler and Dodge products would have been the stuff of only the most zealous Mopar fan. It’s now a very real possibility.

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New or Used: Can One Car Last Through Five Kids? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-or-used-can-one-car-last-through-five-kids/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:58:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=804162 I currently have three cars and I feel a hankering to buy a fourth. My wife has bought into the idea, now it’s just a matter of what to get. The particulars: – Five kids between the ages of 5 and 15… – Active duty military with seven (7!) moves since 2005 with a couple […]

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I currently have three cars and I feel a hankering to buy a fourth. My wife has bought into the idea, now it’s just a matter of what to get.

The particulars:

– Five kids between the ages of 5 and 15…

– Active duty military with seven (7!) moves since 2005 with a couple more likely over the next several years
– Three current cars are all paid for
– Commute is 35 highway miles each way and will be that way for at least the next 18 months and maybe longer
– Car #1 – 2006 Honda Odyssey with ~120,000 miles (bought new)
– Car #2 – 2007 Honda Accord 5 speed with ~83,000 miles (bought used)
– Car #3 – 1969 Jeepster Commando that’s been in my family since 1973.

Our oldest turns 16 in a few months and we’d like to get a vehicle that the kids can all drive over the next 13 years. Note that I said ‘a’ vehicle as we keep our cars a long time and don’t intend on getting another car for the kids to share. One and done.

What should that fourth vehicle be? I see really only two paths that make sense.

First option: Get a car that pushes 40+mpg to ease the pain at the pump my commute causes. Possible vehicle: my Dad is selling his 2011 Jetta TDI 5 speed wagon this fall and I have dibs, if I so choose. This option would mean that the kids would drive the Accord, which we’re fine with.

Second option: Get something that can double as the kids’ car and that we can use to tow the Commando on our future moves. This means I would keep commuting in my Accord, which is also fine. Budget is about $7K max and we’ll pay cash.

We are leaning strongly towards getting a third gen 4Runner (’96-’01) with a V6, 4×4 and tow package as the min requirements. Manual is highly desired but not required. There are several for sale where we live (north of LA) and examples with 150-175k miles can be found for around $5k, although most are automatics. Reviews and 4Runner forums seem to portend good news regarding longevity with relatively straight forward maintenance required. My fear? My vehicle aperture isn’t nearly wide enough and that there are lots of other good options out there that we’re not considering. Whatever the fourth vehicle ends up being, there isn’t a requirement that it be able to carry all seven of us.

I leave it in your capable hands. What does your magic 8 ball say? (It better not say to buy a Panther, ’cause it ain’t happening!)

Cheers,

Steve Says

I like your first option the best.

If your kids learn how to drive a stick (good move there!), they will eventually get a far better vehicle in the marketplace as they get older and more independent.

As a car dealer circa 2014, it amazes me how so few people know how to drive a stick these days. When it comes to older vehicles, I find that sticks will go for about 15% to 35% cheaper than their automatic counterparts with a few notable exceptions

I still buy a lot of em’ for retail, and although they sit at my lot for longer periods of time, they also attract customers who are far more conscientious about maintenance and upkeep. This helps me when it comes to financing these rides. Since a car that is well kept tends to have fewer issues.

As for option 2, yes, the Toyota 4Runner has an excellent long-term reliability record. But let me throw in an alternative that will cost thousands less and have a solid reliability record as well.

I would consider a Mitsubishi Montero  from the early 2000’s. If you buy one with the 3.5 Liter, they are virtually bulletproof, and the kids will benefit from a higher seating position.  The gas mileage will remain abysmal. But in the real world the 3.5 Liter in the Montero will get you a vehicle with about half the miles of the 4Runner for the same price, and the reliability of that particular powertrain is solid (<—click).

Maintenance history is critically important when buying older SUV’s because a lot of them are neglected and inevitably hot-potatoed in the used car market . So get it independently inspected and only opt for ones that have a strong maintenance regimen. Otherwise you will also be buying someone else’s problems.

Good luck! Oh, and if you decide to not buy an older SUV, I have a beige on beige Toyota Solara with a V6, no CD player, and a hand shaker in between the front seats. I’m thinking about naming it, “The Rolling Leper” in honor if it more or less being an unsellable car.

If you don’t have to tow, go find the west coast version of a low-spec Solara. In a non-rust climate like central California, I think a car like that would probably be the optimal fit.

All the best.

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Capsule Review: Jeep Cherokee Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-jeep-cherokee-part-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-jeep-cherokee-part-two/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 15:12:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782265 The problem with a “take-no-prisoners” approach to evaluating new cars is that when you’re the only one adopting a particular stance, it can get pretty lonely – even your own readers begin to doubt you. My initial review of the Jeep Cherokee was a great example of this. Most reports are fairly positive – and […]

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The problem with a “take-no-prisoners” approach to evaluating new cars is that when you’re the only one adopting a particular stance, it can get pretty lonely – even your own readers begin to doubt you. My initial review of the Jeep Cherokee was a great example of this. Most reports are fairly positive – and indeed, there was plenty to like about the car, as my own review mentioned – but many of the car’s flaws were glossed over or simply not mentioned. On the other hand, we at TTAC gave you the unvarnished truth about the Cherokee – and Chrysler was gracious enough to let us review the Cherokee again.

On the launch program in California, there was some confusion over whether the vehicles were pre-production or production units. This time, there was none, and it showed in the overall fit and finish of the Cherokee. The unsightly stitching on the steering wheel? Gone. The wobbly console? Not quite perfect, but less wobbly than before. Like the newly released Chrysler 200, the fit and finish, particularly of the supplied interior components, is very nicely executed. Next to an Escape, CR-V or RAV4, the interior of our Cherokee Limited tester was undoubtedly a cut above the others. If nothing else, Chrysler has managed to carve out a real leader with the UConnect 8.4, offering the best infotainment system along with excellent tactile controls.

Judging from my test example, Jeep has made strides in other areas that previously came up for criticism. After a harsh winter of volatile temperatures, our local roads have been mutilated by potholes and divots, but the Cherokee handled them with aplomb. It would be a stretch to call the ride “plush”, but the little trucklet felt much more sedate than it did on the launch loop, and if FCA plans on selling these in world markets, it’s a good indication of how it will fare on the roads of Europe and developing countries. Similarly, the ZF 9-speed was far less frenetic in its operation, and felt better equipped to handle the more-than-adequate power of the 3.2L Pentastar V6. The major disappointment here was the rather dismal fuel economy.

Driving mostly in heavy stop-and-go traffic, I netted just 15 mpg, despite slow speeds and a rather gentle foot (helped by the much improved throttle calibration – another bone of contention at launch). One can chalk that up to the (literally) freezing temperatures, winter tires, all-wheel drive or my incompetence as a vehicle reviewer. I had assumed that a V6 would be a more economical alternative to a larger turbo 4-cylinder such as the Escape 2.0T, which is known for delivering sub-par fuel economy in the real world. Apparently not. The EPA rates the AWD V6 Cherokee with Active-Drive II (included on my tester) at just 19 mpg around town, so perhaps the results aren’t terribly off base. This is also one heavy CUV, weighing in at over two tons, thanks to the sophisticated AWD, the V6 engine and the hearty CUSW architecture.

Of course, some of my original complaints still remain. The brakes, which I initially compared to a damp dishrag, are still weak, and seem to engage only when the pedal is millimeters away from the floor, as if the whole system was in bad need of bleeding and some new fluid.

The other problem, which is literally impossible to change barring a total redesign, is the rather cramped rear seat area and small cargo compartment. Having driven every vehicle built of CUSW, I realize that this is something that is endemic to this particular architecture, but the Cherokee especially is the kind of “lifestyle” vehicle that should be able to carry people and property with minimal fuss. Nearly everyone who rode around in the back found it cramped, especially if they were above 5’10”. Cargo room is tight, with just 24.8 cubic feet of space in the back – by comparison, a CR-V has 37.2 cubic feet, which makes all the difference when you’re doing a Costco run.

The last major annoyance was something that was not readily apparent on the launch, though it proved to be a real bear around town. The Rear Cross Path detection system would seemingly brake the car for no reason when parallel parking or backing into a stall at just a touch above crawl speed. While I can understand the good intentions and legal rationale behind this programming, it simply turned into annoyance in the real world, where experienced drivers can perform that at more than a snail’s pace. If I were to buy one, I would do whatever I could to opt out.

Having had the chance to experience the car on my home turf, and gain a better understanding of its capabilities, I was able to warm to it more than I did in September. In a segment full of anodyne entrants, the Cherokee is something unique, both aesthetically and mechanically. Unfortunately, it’s missing a few key elements in terms of practicality that would make it a true class leader.

Nonetheless, I’m far more optimistic after having driven the Chrysler 200. It seems that CUSW improves with each iteration: the Dart’s weak point was the powertrain. The Cherokee had a number of initial quality teething issues. The 200 still needs a bit more space for rear passengers. If the pattern of continuous improvement sustains itself, then the next-Cherokee could be a serious player in the market. Not that the Cherokee isn’t competitive, but you better be willing to accept some compromises for the sake of non-conformity.

Chrysler provided the vehicle and a tank of gas for this review.

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Jeep Considering Power-Retractable Top For Fourth-Gen Wrangler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/jeep-considering-power-retractable-top-for-fourth-gen-wrangler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/jeep-considering-power-retractable-top-for-fourth-gen-wrangler/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=768794 Rumored to be in the early stages of development, the fourth generation of the Jeep Wrangler could have an power-retractable top as one of a few items designed to attract more customers to the off-roading legend. Road & Track reports the top would be aimed as a high-end option at those who can’t be bothered […]

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Rumored to be in the early stages of development, the fourth generation of the Jeep Wrangler could have an power-retractable top as one of a few items designed to attract more customers to the off-roading legend.

Road & Track reports the top would be aimed as a high-end option at those who can’t be bothered undoing the soft-top or disassembling the hard top found on current models. Also on the agenda are removable doors and a frame redesign aimed at delivering a smoother ride while retaining the Wrangler’s solid axles.

What won’t make it to the new Wrangler? The folding windshield and rear-mounted spare tire, due to safety concerns and an overall goal of saving weight.

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Manley: Renegade Will Appeal To U.S. Customers Despite Italian Roots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/manley-renegade-will-appeal-to-u-s-customers-despite-italian-roots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/manley-renegade-will-appeal-to-u-s-customers-despite-italian-roots/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 20:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767217 According to Jeep boss Mike Manley, the Italian-built Renegade will appeal to the off-road brand’s United States customer base despite its Italian roots, especially in Trailhawk form. Automotive News Europe reports the main concern regarding the Renegade is its off-road capability, which Manley believes will be resolved once the trail-rated Trailhawk arrives in showrooms in […]

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2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

According to Jeep boss Mike Manley, the Italian-built Renegade will appeal to the off-road brand’s United States customer base despite its Italian roots, especially in Trailhawk form.

Automotive News Europe reports the main concern regarding the Renegade is its off-road capability, which Manley believes will be resolved once the trail-rated Trailhawk arrives in showrooms in 2015 along with the rest of the Renegade family. He also noted the design language expressed by the entry-level Jeep, as well as its footprint, echo that of the CJ family:

The Renegade’s footprint is similar to one of the CJs. It’s much more Wrangler. We’re very pleased, and I think it will work well in the United States.

Though Manley remained silent on the subject of sales figures for the Renegade and platform sibling Fiat 500X, supplier sources expect a total of 280,000 units annually between the two, with Jeep moving 150,000 units and Fiat accounting for 130,000. Price of admission will be announced by Jeep in Q4 2014 for the U.S., Q2 2014 for the European market.

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Smaller Jeep To Slot Beneath Renegade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/smaller-jeep-to-slot-beneath-renegade/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766177 Though the Jeep Renegade already bowed at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, the off-road brand has plans for not only a fullsize SUV similar to the discontinued Commander, but an A segment SUV slotted beneath the Renegade, as well. Auto Express reports the A segment vehicle could possibly be underpinned by the next-generation Fiat 500, […]

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Though the Jeep Renegade already bowed at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, the off-road brand has plans for not only a fullsize SUV similar to the discontinued Commander, but an A segment SUV slotted beneath the Renegade, as well.

Auto Express reports the A segment vehicle could possibly be underpinned by the next-generation Fiat 500, though would face greater engineering challenges than those faced by the Renegade — built upon Fiat’s “small-wide” archecture underpinning the upcoming 500X — to make it Rubicon-ready, as Jeep boss Mike Manley explained:

We couldn’t make an SUV off of “small wide” as you can’t get the ground clearance. It was completely changed by Jeep engineers so now it’s “small wide 4×4″ architecture.

The A segment Jeep could also aid in bringing the brand into compliance with increasing CO2 emissions standards, though the improvement drive — much like the vehicle itself — will be a long, hard road to hew:

There’s relentless pressure to reduce CO2 and there’s much more for us to do. We’re trying to stay away from complexity and improvements are slowly coming.

Meanwhile, Manley’s focus is toward the Grand Wagoneer, which will slot above the Grand Cherokee. The fullsize SUV will boast room for seven and “be bigger than the old Commander” made between 2006 and 2010.

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Geneva 2014: Jeep Renegade Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-jeep-renegade-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-jeep-renegade-live-shots/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 15:29:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=763121   Our photographers bring you live shots of the Jeep Renegade on the floor at Geneva. They even took snapshots of a Diesel Trailhawk, the best combination that we won’t get in North America. Gallery after the jump.    

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Our photographers bring you live shots of the Jeep Renegade on the floor at Geneva. They even took snapshots of a Diesel Trailhawk, the best combination that we won’t get in North America. Gallery after the jump.

 

 

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