Chrysler's Gualberto Ranieri Calls Grand Cherokee Moose Test "Criminal", "Set-Up"

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

The blogosphere has been buzzing for the past two days over a test conducted by Swedish auto rag Teknikens Varld, in which a new Jeep Grand Cherokee nearly rolled over. The so-called “moose test”, which purports to simulate a 40mph swerve-avoidance maneuver, made Teknikens Varld world-famous in 1997 when it caused the then-new Mercedes A-Class to roll over. Although the magazine was able to coax some pretty acrobatic behavior out of a Toyota truck in 2007, the news that compact pickups can roll over in certain situations didn’t exactly shock the globe.

When a Grand Cherokee loaded with five passengers and luggage failed the test, however, it propelled the magazine back into the spotlight once more. (Our piece on the “moose test” was in progress over the past twenty-four hours, as I wanted to go a little further into the reasons and dynamics behind rollovers and it was taking longer to write than a quick link. Sorry for the delay!)

TTAC readers familiar with the way American car companies do business no doubt
expected Chrysler to issue a blanket but not particularly convincing denial while they huddled with their attorneys and applied pressure behind the scenes. It’s what GM would do. Maybe even what Ford would do. But Chrysler is Italian now, so they came out swinging… and yes, they actually used the word “criminal”. Che casino!

The full response from Gualberto Ranieri can be found here, but I’ll excerpt the entertaining and relevant parts below.

the vehicle was definitely “set up,” which is nothing short of criminal… the vehicle used to perform the extreme maneuver was overloaded by 110 lbs.

Chrysler Group sent engineers to Sweden to witness the magazine again perform the aggressive maneuver, even though it is not used by any regulatory agency to establish safety ratings.

This time the Grand Cherokee was loaded properly. (Because we were watching, perhaps?) And the atypical outcome observed previously could not be repeated. Despite numerous attempts.

Expect the magazine to maintain its innocence, even though its editors have been caught red-handed. Because the truth doesn’t just hurt. It stings.

Italians use the courts like a bludgeon — many TTAC readers who are also race fans will recall that Frank Williams faced criminal charges after the death of Ayrton Senna on an Italian course — and so the use of “criminal” is more than simply bluster. It may mean that Fiat will pursue legal action.

In the mind of your humble author, there are two probable scenarios:

Scenario 1: Due to weather, tire/road interactions, and other factors too numerous to understand but which have all combined to make every racing driver’s life a living hell at some point, the Grand Cherokee was quite easy to roll over during the magazine’s initial tests but simply refused to cooperate under Chrysler’s investigation. Everything was done in good faith and the whole thing was simply unfortunate. Also, it would be a bad idea to drive the Grand Cherokee, with those tires, anywhere one might encounter a moose, or deer, or feral child.

Scenario 2: The editors decided the magazine needed some headlines, what with the dismal economy, advertising market, and whatnot. They chose a sacrifical lamb — a Grand Cherokee, which barely has any European market presence and therefore could be easily used for such purpose without raising too many hackles or losing any full-page ad buys. They loaded the car up and fussed with inflation pressures until they had a genuinely spectacular photo. Then they sat back and prepared to reap the rewards of ten million international visitors. Unfortunately for them, Chrysler is part of Fiat now, and Chrysler didn’t just sit in Auburn Hills and chuckle at the Swedes. They demanded confirmation. And under legitimate test conditions, Teknikens couldn’t make the car come up on two wheels. They will be utterly crucified in court, Fiat will end up owning the magazine and turning it into a lifestyle publication called “Grand Cherokee Luxury Monthly”, and if you are shopping for a Grand Cherokee you can forget the whole thing because it was truly a set-up, a scam, a sting, a criminal enterprise.

The truth is likely somewhere between the two, but I bet you it’s closer to the second scenario than the first. This kind of test-rigging has an illustrious history. Remember the Dateline-rigged gas tanks? How about the Consumer Reports robot that rolled the Trooper. (Wait a minute: it’s pronounced THE TROOOPARRRRR!) It’s easy to rank the following headlines in order of revenue potential:

  • Odd-Looking American SUV Doesn’t Do Anything Odd In Moose Test. Well, what good is that?
  • Odd-Looking American SUV Not Exactly A Caterham Seven With deDion Rear Suspension Option When It Comes To the Swerving And Whatnot. Additional clicks: Zero!
  • Evil Descendant Of The Vehicle Which Was Callously Driven Through Your Grandmother’s Flowerbed By Two Chaps Who Later On Punched Your Grandfather Repeatedly For Talking Back Suddently Rolls Over, Bursts Into Flames, Poisons The Groundwater When Its Adaptive Headlights Spot Small Fauna. Now we’re cooking with gas!

In the click-land of the Internet, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so unless FIAT actually does sue them into the ground, this “moose test” continues to be a big win for Teknikens Varld. You hadn’t heard of them before, had you? Of course not. It’s a brave new world out there. In the so-called “New World”, however, in a world where full-sized trucks on lift kits are used to take kids to school and the Ford Expedition can be seen on every freeway, the Grand Cherokee is likely to continue to be a solid choice… even if you live in a moose-rich area.

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5 of 125 comments
  • DaveDFW DaveDFW on Jul 11, 2012

    I find it pretty difficult to defend Jeep in this instance. It should be virtually impossible to roll any vehicle by using any driving control input when the vehicle is on smooth, flat pavement. All it took for the Jeep was a full load and two opposite flicks of the steering wheel? Get these things off the road.

    • See 2 previous
    • 05lgt 05lgt on Jul 11, 2012

      @el scotto Depending on my inputs, traction available, and speed... cutting the wheels makes my extra sticky after market tired car push, powerslide, or spin. Only way it's flipping is if the damn thing hits something like a curb while I'm being a doofus. BTDT ended up on the wheels but one side was road marred. Then again, it's got about 4" of ground clearance and is worthless "off road". So much for "anything". It does love graded dirt and or gravel though:)

  • El scotto El scotto on Jul 11, 2012

    I'm waiting for some fool to write "My C/SUV handles just like it's sedan counterpart due to brand X's superior engineering". Sure.

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