Dealers Think Jeep's New Grand Wagoneer May Have Missed Its Sales Window

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
dealers think jeeps new grand wagoneer may have missed its sales window

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 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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4 of 53 comments
  • R Henry R Henry on Jun 18, 2018

    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.

    • Mopar4wd Mopar4wd on Jun 18, 2018

      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.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Jun 18, 2018

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

    • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Jun 20, 2018

      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...

  • Jeff S Time for Elan to buy them out. There was a rumor that Elon was buying GM with even a video but when I googled it I could not verify it.
  • Wjtinfwb One of Nissan's best, from their last days as a scrappy, Mazda type builder of fun cars. Too bad those days are gone.
  • Wjtinfwb Didn't care for the E60 when introduced, compared to the previous generation. But up against some of BMW's latest offerings (new 7), it's a breath of fresh air. This car with a conventional 6-speed manual would be another 10-15k at least as it looks very well kept.
  • SPPPP Very nice shape, but I just never warmed to the E60 car like I did the earlier generations of the 5-series, or the contemporary 3-series.
  • Mike Beranek They're building a brand-new "vending machine" in Schaumburg, right on my way home from work. Maybe after they go belly up, I could buy it, build out living space on the top floor, and use the rest to display my awesome car collection (ha!)