By on February 23, 2013

2014 Jeep Compass Limited Chrysler Photo

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.

2014 Jeep Patriot Chrysler Photo

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

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23 Comments on “Jeep Compass’ Segment-Leading Capability vs Jeep Patriot’s Segment-Leading Capability...”

  • avatar

    Haven’t owned a Jeep since the Stevens models. But I would only buy a four wheel drive vehicle if I had a need for it, so I’m obviously way behind the curve.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    In this case, I’d follow the money. It’s clear were it went (Compass).

    I don’t think Patriot will survive for next model cycle.

    So I guess you must rephrase your question.

    • 0 avatar
      Gardiner Westbound

      USA Today’s James R. Healey reports the 2014 Jeep Cherokee will supplant the Jeep Compass.

  • avatar

    Clearly, “segment-leading capability” isn’t quite so difficult to achieve when your vehicle is the only one in the define-it-yourself segment.

    • 0 avatar

      In Jeep’s defense, they’re not alone in their segment, they just build the only car on stilts with low range. Not hard to be the best when their competitors aren’t aiming for the same target.

  • avatar

    One is for soft-roader enjoyers who want “Jeep”, and the other is for traditionalists. Is it a good idea? That I don’t know.

  • avatar

    “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.”

    I’d always heard that both designs were researched, and the Patriot tested well with men while the Compass appealed primarily to women.

    Rather than actually decide one way or the other, they put both out. I’ve always called Patriot “the guy Jeep” and Compass “the chick Jeep”. Probably sexist in the extreme but DaimlerChrysler started it!

    • 0 avatar

      Not all that sexist, it’s clearly defined by the gender roles they wanted it to play. The new Cherokee will probably kill the patriot and position the compass at the rav-4/CR-V/Escape and the Cherokee at the remainder of the market.

  • avatar

    With the platform sharing and common parts I think its more a case of two models for 1.25 times the development money. That cost might be small price to pay for hedging your styling bets.

  • avatar

    as someone who owned a 1992 Jeep wrangler 4.0 six. love that straight six…. i think they are both are silly vehicles and i hate them both. i like the new wrangler now it has decent engine and nice interior.

    so in the end my choice is neither. haha.

  • avatar

    so they’ll continue to sell these when the new Cherokee comes out? that’s a really crowded lineup.

    • 0 avatar

      The new cherokee is to replace the liberty.

      But, you do raise a good point. The liberty wasn’t much bigger than these two and the Cherokee will probably be the same.

      On a side note this is the last year for the patriot and compass. So no worries.

  • avatar

    > twice the development money

    Oh come now, surely on a site called “The Truth about Cars,” none of the writers would actually say that sentence with a straight face.

    Does the author actually not think the expensive bits of R&D were done in tandem until they got near the skinning phase?

    • 0 avatar

      Whether the multiplier is 2X or 1.25X, developing two cars is going to be more expensive than just one car and if you spent that extra money on the one car, it’d probably be a better car.

      Also, it’s not just the development costs, it’s also the cost of marketing and everything else that goes into the cost of selling a car model.

      Look, nobody’s paying me to run a car company. I’m just a guy in the peanut gallery in suburban Detroit, so it’s not like I’m an expert on the car biz, but selling slight variations of the same car and competing with yourself has never been a great idea whether it’s Compass/Patriot or Ford/Mercury.

  • avatar

    Here in Oz we see a lot of Jeeps probably because Chrysler is the one U.S. manufacturer that routinely designs all their cars with the capability of RHD or LHD.
    I amuse myself with the model names. Does ‘Patriot’ automatically mean U.S. Patriot or does it default to the country of purchase? Jeep cannot use the name ‘Liberty’ in Australia because it is used by Subaru which cannot use the name ‘Legacy’ as it is the same as a revered charity benefitting wives and family of servicemen.
    I did once look at a Jeep Cherokee but cross-shopping had me buy a Land Rover Disco. My wife preferred its light and airy interior.

  • avatar

    In 2012 world wide-sales, the Compass actually outsold the Patriot, mainly on the strength of sales in China and Europe. Both models were to be discontinued by the end of this year, but the replacement has been delayed. Production may continue for a time, as Chrysler/Fiat can’t afford to loose the export sales, now that many other projects have been delayed, as well. The Cherokee will go into production in China ASAP, with the Compass replacement to follow when things get sorted out. Production timelines will be in flux within the group for the next 2 years, so standby for the next production plan.

  • avatar

    I never understood the appeal of the Liberty at all. It was a lot heavier than the Cherokee, so despite twenty years worth of technology, the Liberty didn’t get better gas mileage, wasn’t quicker, wasn’t roomier. It was maybe safer. It wasn’t necessarily more reliable.

    • 0 avatar

      The appeal of the Liberty can be answered with three letters: RWD. When the Liberty debuted as a 2002, Jeep was still heavily into ‘trail-rated’ and that meant everything had to be RWD.

      But Chrysler began realizing that their RWD CUV wasn’t selling nearly as well (or as profitable) as all the other, car-based, FWD CUVs. So in came the FWD Caliber-based Patriot and Compass for 2007.

      With the 2014 FWD Cherokee, Chrysler is completely abandoning the RWD CUV platform. That’s why the Cherokee will immediately eliminate the FWD Compass and, in all likelihood, the Patriot will be dropped soon enough, too.

  • avatar

    The Patriot has been pretty decently reviewed since the interior and sound deadening was improved. The Compass was well reviewed for its foul weather capability in a C&D test that pitted it against cars like the AWD Mini. Each has its place.

    Honestly I’d pick the Patriot for its styling and if I had a capable 4×4 vehicle I’d start looking for places to use it.

  • avatar

    As an owner of a 2008 Compass I have to say I liked the idea they had for the car
    The execution however, was a joke..
    It’s noisy as hell on the highway, anything above 2500 RPM and it sounds like an angry drunken bee…
    The interior is like rock .. ugh to the Caliber hard plastic look.
    Love the seats.. the truly only redeeming quality of the car…
    It can get decent gas mileage but again, over 2200 RPM and you start a quick loss in MPG’s…
    It does turn on and stop on the proverbial dime but it’s not enough for me to keep it beyond next month when I take delivery on my Dart GT.
    Too bad they put the 6 sp auto in the 2014… 3 years too late IMHO..

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