By on June 17, 2018

Fiat Chrysler has some of the best three-row vehicles on the domestic market right now but, if you’re not a fan of minivans, you probably couldn’t care less about them. Dodge’s Grand Caravan remains a darling for budget-conscious families and fleet managers, despite being stuck in its fifth generation for over a decade. Meanwhile, the Chrysler Pacifica takes the Caravan concept and adds modern refinement at a higher price point.

The problem is that neither are SUVs. Even though Dodge does have the Durango on offer already, FCA chief Sergio Marchionne has been begging engineers to come up with a three-row SUV that would surpass the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Suburban since at least 2013. The theory was to produce a hulking and rugged luxury vehicle that could compete with Land Rover and swipe some business from the domestic luxury rivals. He was heralding the return of Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

However, the vehicle’s development has been plighted with delays and the initial vision has become muddied. While it’s still coming, dealers are beginning to wonder if the model has missed its opportunity as gas prices climb, sales stagnate, and material costs rise. 

“I think our window of opportunity is closing,” a veteran FCA dealer explained to Automotive News. “We could have killed with [the Grand Wagoneer] if it had been available when they first told us about it, but it’s a much tougher sell with interest rates and gas prices going up.”

That certainly has been true over the last few months but the expanded outlook on fuel prices is really anybody’s guess. Shale oil could quell domestic fuel prices quite a bit but OPEC has still agreed to cut production in the coming years. Regardless of the confusion and volatility, the average price per barrel will go up quite a bit in the longterm. North American consumers just won’t be hit quite so hard.

Fuel isn’t the only deciding factor of the Grand Wagoneer’s success, though. John Murphy, a research analyst for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told the Automotive Press Association last week that the “Goldilocks” period for auto retailing was wrapping up.

“The Grand Wagoneer will still sell because it’s a Jeep,” a second dealer said. “But it would have been nice to have them already.”

SUVs will still be big business for automakers for the foreseeable future but the increased cost of raw materials, highly competitive used-car values, and creeping interest rates means fewer consumers will have the means to purchase the really big ones. There is also a lot of competition right now. Premium and entry luxury manufacturers have all driven hard into utility vehicles over the last few years. As a result, FCA decided to shift the Wagoneer downmarket slightly to compete more closely with the Suburban and Expedition. In January of 2017, Marchionne said Jeep would assemble the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer as body-on-frame vehicles. It’s still supposed to be able to go toe-to-toe with Lincoln and Cadillac but it probably won’t be chasing Land Rover anymore.

Likely a wise move, but the change forced FCA to push back the production date even further. The SUV is now presumed scheduled to appear for the 2021 model year, meaning assembly wouldn’t start until 2020. “We’ve been working on it for several years,” Jeep head Mike Manley explained earlier this year. “It has a long gestation period, and will be clearly positioned significantly above Grand Cherokee.”

While we’ve seen images of Wagoneer test mules floating around the internet, Jeep employees have been clear that the brand hasn’t decided on the vehicle’s styling. Hopefully the end result doesn’t pursue a similar trajectory as the Jeep Commander, which was introduced to accommodate larger families but crashed and burned during the Great Recession and spiking gas prices.

[Image: FCA]

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53 Comments on “Dealers Think Jeep’s New Grand Wagoneer May Have Missed its Sales Window...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Chrysler will be sold again before this is out.

    “Jeep head Mike Manley explained earlier this year. “It has a long gestation period, and will be clearly positioned significantly above Grand Cherokee.””

    This was not a good idea because quite truthfully, nobody cares. A quick and dirty longer JGC called whatever you like would fit the bill. Stop pretending stuff is special when it isn’t. Lincoln is doing well with Navi despite the fact its an Expedition done better. Again, buyers don’t seem to care for a plethora of reasons. Escalade, the 6.0 Tahoe, does well although I noticed the ESV seems to come down to Earth by MY number three (well to those in the know, proles will still lap up the bad loan on one with 18xxxx miles for the wrong money). Both are successful, hell Lexus finally simply extended the RX because they recognized a new model is simply not needed. Neither is Jeep Commander, er Grand Wagoneer, er Overland, er hmmmmm…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The previous and current Escalades have employed a 6.2-liter, not a 6.0.

      But I agree. They could essentially have done a vehicle sized just like the Durango—itself a relative of the Grand Cherokee—and cleaned up. Or just plain extended the Grand Cherokee. In fact, there’s probably room for both a large crossover *and* a true BOF flagship.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      This thing will be based on the Ram 1500, so it should be easy enough to do. I don’t understand why they haven’t done it already. Even if they don’t sell too many, the ones they do sell will be like printing money.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    People say Marchionne’s a genius. Well, if he was, a full sized, BOF, pickup-based Jeep / Ram SUV would have hit the market years ago. It’s not like they don’t have the basic hardware to get it done. They’re just giving high-profit sales away – not just to Ford and GM, but to Toyota and Nissan as well.

    Same goes for the much-ballyhooed Chrysler CUV that was supposed to have hit the streets every year since 2017.

    I just don’t see a lot of clear strategic direction from this company. I don’t think they’re brilliant at all – I think they got lucky.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I argue the company focus was on Alfa/Maserati with a bone tossed to Auburn Hills to produce quick things like Hellcat, Demon, with remaining resources to the updated Wrangler and a new Dodge Ram (both of which should have debuted before the Alfa show). Notice there seems to have been no money for Jeep Above GC even though it would be a slam dunk. Why? Because it was frosting on the cake and it was Ram/Wrangler keeping the lights on while the rest was blown on Alfa.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I still think the grand plan is to sell CDJR to China, reunite Alfa/Maserati with Ferrari, then hold Fiat/Lancia hostage to the Italian government.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          They won’t be able to do so until after 2020 at the earliest. Alfa and Maserati would also be bereft of platforms unless the plan is to somehow share Ferrari’s?

          I agree with you on Fiat, I actually see it going East before the American brands are allowed to be sold/liquidated.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        The Fiat/Alfa studio here in OKC has taken to writing “Motor Trend’s Something-Or-Other Of the Year” across its inventory of Stelvio SUVs. I haven’t seen a single one on the road. Meanwhile, the BMW dealer two doors down and the Mercedes-Benz dealership recently moved across the highway both clean up.

        I don’t think FCA should have spent so much money trying to get Alfa off the ground, especially when they’re probably having to eat money to match lease deals from established premium competitors.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    If they do this right, there is still tremendous cachet for the Grand Wagoneer with the demographic that can afford one of these new.

    Carpooling with a a coworker, we stopped at a diner; there was a clean one parked right in front. She ran up to it, then came back shouting, “It’s original upholstery!” I then got to listen to a series of “What About Bob?” jokes.

    It needs to look like your picture above. Wood siding would be an even bigger win. Who doesn’t want to hear a woman in rapturous delight screaming, “It’s a woodie!”?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Hopefully, they heed your recommendation on the styling. Right now, the spy shots have the test cars looking like bulky Grand Cherokees.

      • 0 avatar

        According to the sweaters presentation a couple weeks ago there will be a unibody 3row and a ram bases 3row.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Which spy shots? You said the styling hasn’t been decided, and the only 7-seater spy shots I’ve seen have turned out to be the recent Jeep Grand Commander, a Chinese-market vehicle that’s basically a stretched out Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      I pass through one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Wilmington (Delaware) as part of my daily commute and there are at least two Grand Wagoneers there, both in great condition.

      One of them is right on my daily commute; the owner added a brick pad about halfway up his driveway to show it off and passing that GW twice a day was the highlight of the trip. He must have gotten tired of passers-by stopping though, because now it’s parked beside the garage so you have to know it’s there to get a peek.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I would argue that anyone trying to get into the crossover/SUV game now is probably too late. Biggest culprit is Genesis, by far. We are approaching year 10 from them with nothing in the crossover space and pretty meal mouthed future plans.

    Chrysler 200 would have gone completely differently as a crossover. The Dodge Journey has increased sales every year its been out FFS. FCA is an effing mess and a half.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      I think the term you were looking for is mealy mouthed.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Genesis brand was only launched in the fall of 2016 and the 2 of the 3 planned CUVs are due to launch in 2020 based on a new RWD platform.

      The timeline from conception to reality isn’t off the industry norm (esp. when there’s a new platform involved).

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Formally the brand is 2 years old but they’ve been playing in that space for close to a decade. They’ve had a platform.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Yeah, 2 large sedans which were developed primarily for the Korean market.

          As for the platform, the one underpinning the G80 and G90 is too heavy; those 2 sedans, themselves could lose some weight, so would have been even more problematic for CUVs.

          And the platform before that didn’t allow for AWD.

          Look how long it took them to launch an entry/compact sedan which is the volume seller for sedans?

          And that’s even w/ the outgoing platform.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Jeep made some fantastic looking concept vehicles that should be the basis for the new Grand Wagoneer. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/120893571227900791

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I wonder if Lyle Waggoner ever drove a Wagoneer?

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    I really wish FCA would take up AMC’s old mantra: “Hit ’em where they ain’t.” Find an empty niche and fill it. Just, you know, without Pacers.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Look, it would have been a shameless badge job in a lot of ways…

    But why didn’t they just reskin the Durango as a jeep and start selling?

    No new platform. No big engineering job. Just make it look like a jeep and go to town. I mean it is a Grand Cherokee underneath anyway right? So you could argue the Durango is already a jeep.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    This was always a stupid idea anyway. The Grand Cherokee already crests $50k pretty easily while the SRT and Trackhawk command eye watering prices. How much more room is there to move up? The Jeep name carries an enviable amount of cachet, but FCA is on glue if they think they’re going to be rivaling the likes of Land Rover. Nobody’s going to be cross shopping this with a Range Rover, especially if it means going into an icky Chrysler dealership and getting hard sell tactics from some goateed guy in a cheap polo shirt.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The Grand Cherokee starts at barely over $30K, while the Grand Wagoneer should start at Lincoln Navigator pricing or at least even with the Expedition Limited, at more than $60K to start.

      I’d suggest leaving Range Rover customers to themselves, aiming for mainstream luxury and mid trim SUV buyers instead.

      • 0 avatar
        Sub-600

        FCA should call it the Sixty Grand Wagoneer.

      • 0 avatar

        The grand Cherokee is interesting. In previous generations I used to see low trims fairly regularly. Here in the Northeast I hardly ever see a Laredo or other lower trims any more. Almost all of the are limiteds and overlands. Which means most are going out closer to 40k or more.
        I do know at least a couple buyers who bought GC’s after test driving X5’s and Land rovers. I agree I think targeting Tahoe and Expedition pricing would be the best move.

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    >Dealers Think Jeep’s New Grand Wagoneer May Have Missed its Sales Window

    You mean like in the 1970’s?

  • avatar
    hirostates12

    Nostalgia is blind. The original Grand Wagoneers were terrible in nearly every way…there in why the first Explorer seemed like a revelation when it arrived without parts dropping from underneath.

    Only the haze of time and the death of anyone old enough to have bought one new has made these rattle traps desirable.

  • avatar
    Null Set

    For what it’s worth, Giulia’s and Stelvios are *everywhere* in LA. Ditto for Ghiblis. You can even spot a stray Levante here and there.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah I’m guessing the majority of Alfa sales are in the North East and California. Both tend to be more open to European cars in general. The fiat dealers up here have issues but the Alfa side seems to be cycling thru inventory well.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    Wait, so Jeep has missed the sales window on their SUV, but meanwhile, Ford is going to stop making cars because they aren’t selling? Somebody’s crystal ball is screwed up. Not sure who’s.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    How hard could it have been all this time to take the Ram, whose chassis rides smoother than the Ford and GM trucks, and pop a nicer body on top?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    @mcarr – Think about how many fullsize SUVs, gov issue to loaded luxury badge were sold by GM and Ford (Toyota and Nissan too to some degree), basically pure profit, built on fullsize pickup platforms, since the Grand Wagoneer was killed, same as the Dodge Ramcharger for no good reason, instead of stretching it to 4-doors, and there’s your answer.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in the 90’s I read an article in Motor Trend and they asked Chrysler exec if a fullsize Dodge SUV was coming. He said no they thought the market was in midsize not full size. He also mentioned that Cafe was an issue as Ford was introducing the Escape and Chevy had the tracker to offset the numbers.
      In retrospect this was widely regarded as a bad move.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        In the context of the time the guy was not completely wrong, given the biggest hit of the decade was the Ranger based Explorer selling almost 1/2 million a year in the mid 90s, the 1/2 ton GMTs didn’t do that well with the Tahoe, Yukon and Suburbans combined until the 2000s. in the 90s Jeep didn’t have all the fiat and mitsubishi based cross overs they have today to offset the CAFE mpg.

        In retrospect, the 1/2 ton based SUVs didn’t really take center stage until CAFE starting squeezing the midsize BOF SUVs in the 2000s, and sure enough shorter wheel base Ranger/S10/Dakota based SUVs all fell victim to a combination of economy and CAFE. By the time the 1/2 tons became the only option for volume BOF SUVs they have moved up market and much less volume than before and Chrysler was in bankruptcy by then.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I’ll give them that, it was a good decision at the time. But as things changed, they rode that b!tch into the ground. I’ll actually give them more credit for that!

          They also get much respect for the Magnum, 300, Charger, Challenger, the “Got Hemi” campaign, anything SRT, and of course the Hellcats and Demons.

          Now what was that you were saying about “CAFE”?

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Ford’s new Expedition and Lincoln Navigator will be re-writing the standard for the big SUVs. Escalade will be playing follow up, as GM tends to do, and the FCA product will be “in development” until FCA becomes a subsidiary of Geely.

    • 0 avatar

      While I would say the possibility of a buy out is there, I would have to assume now that Alfa is paid for and released new Ram is out and New wrangler I have to imagine the priority list would go Wrangler pickup then 3 row jeep.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    So, a Power Wagon with 3 rows should be pretty easy.

    • 0 avatar
      zipper69

      a V6 with turbo (extra for twin turbo) 4WD seven seats and a chunky style.

      Range rover have scooped up the luxury market, they need to go “rugged” and trade of the Jeep charisma…

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