QOTD: Missed Opportunities, Thy Name Is Grand Wagoneer?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Question of the Day was generated by some comments on yesterday’s post regarding the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer. There, it was clear that two divergent camps of opinion were present regarding the model’s long hiatus.

Let’s explore this a little further.

In case you missed it, some spy shots have surfaced of the new Grand Wagoneer model in prototype form, as Jeep prepares to make its way back into the full-size, truck-based SUV market. Time for a history lesson.

Introduced back in 1963 when Kaiser Jeep was still an entity, the Wagoneer model debuted as a station wagon. Shortly afterward, four-wheel drive was added and the SUV began to take shape. Throughout the next couple of decades, increasing levels of equipment and power resulted in the birth of the Grand Wagoneer in 1984. The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer birthed the American luxury SUV at a time when refinement was not the concern of truck and utility vehicle manufacturers.

In the days before the Range Rover, the Grand Wagoneer was family vehicle of choice for the well-heeled. Other full-size SUVs sprang up across the market from America, Japan, and England, as the Grand Wagoneer aged in place. 1991 was the final year of the old SJ model; Jeep decided not to offer a replacement for its full-size customers. Instead, in 1993 the Grand Wagoneer name was applied to a ZJ Grand Cherokee to create a top-line, wood-clad trim. Available for a single year, Jeep promptly gave up on the Wagoneer.

In the years following, the full-size SUV became the go-to vehicle for much of America when an uncool minivan just wouldn’t do. Names like Tahoe, Suburban, Expedition, and Navigator were joined later by Sequoia and Armada. And still Jeep did not field a competitor. Hundreds of thousands of luxury SUV sales later, and Jeep’s just now getting back into the game. We’ve worked our way back to today’s question.

Was the lack of Grand Wagoneer for all those years careful product planning and name preservation on the part of Chrysler, or was it an instance where a product ball was continually dropped? Vintage Wagoneers have big-time value to many people, in original or (especially) restored condition. Was that heritage and product segment worth ignoring for nearly three decades? Off to you.

[Images: Jeep]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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4 of 52 comments
  • Whynotaztec Whynotaztec on Nov 27, 2019

    FCA not introducing a GW while Jeep has been on a tear seems like a mistake, right up there with Hummer not being around for the whole Jeep/SUV explosion

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Nov 27, 2019

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the expensive private schools I then attended had a contingent of expensive parents who, unlike most of their expensive peers, chose to drive loaded Suburban Silverados. The old Grand Wagoneer was then seen as too out-of-date even for them, but I think a new one could have swung them from the Burbs. The issue is that neither AMC nor early 1990s Chrysler had a prayer of funding the development of an all-new SUV, and neither one had an existing platform that was suitable either. The best they could have done would have been a light facelift of the existing car with a modernized engine, which wouldn't have cut the mustard. Even today, the only reason we are getting a new Grand Wagoneer is because the pickup market has evolved sufficiently that it made sense to design a new Ram 1500 that could also serve as the basis for the Grand Wagoneer. That ... would not have worked with the '90s Ram.

    • See 1 previous
    • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Dec 01, 2019

      @JimZ Hmmm. Sounds like the Journey platform would make a great Grand Wagoneer, Jim Z !! They could get another 20 years out of it since it's only 11 right now.

  • Tassos Obsolete relic is NOT a used car.It might have attracted some buyers in ITS DAY, 1985, 40 years ago, but NOT today, unless you are a damned fool.
  • Stan Reither Jr. Part throttle efficiency was mentioned earlier in a postThis type of reciprocating engine opens the door to achieve(slightly) variable stroke which would provide variable mechanical compression ratio adjustments for high vacuum (light load) or boost(power) conditions IMO
  • Joe65688619 Keep in mind some of these suppliers are not just supplying parts, but assembled components (easy example is transmissions). But there are far more, and the more they are electronically connected and integrated with rest of the platform the more complex to design, engineer, and manufacture. Most contract manufacturers don't make a lot of money in the design and engineering space because their customers to that. Commodity components can be sourced anywhere, but there are only a handful of contract manufacturers (usually diversified companies that build all kinds of stuff for other brands) can engineer and build the more complex components, especially with electronics. Every single new car I've purchased in the last few years has had some sort of electronic component issue: Infinti (battery drain caused by software bug and poorly grounded wires), Acura (radio hiss, pops, burps, dash and infotainment screens occasionally throw errors and the ignition must be killed to reboot them, voice nav, whether using the car's system or CarPlay can't seem to make up its mind as to which speakers to use and how loud, even using the same app on the same trip - I almost jumped in my seat once), GMC drivetrain EMF causing a whine in the speakers that even when "off" that phased with engine RPM), Nissan (didn't have issues until 120K miles, but occassionally blew fuses for interior components - likely not a manufacturing defect other than a short developed somewhere, but on a high-mileage car that was mechanically sound was too expensive to fix (a lot of trial and error and tracing connections = labor costs). What I suspect will happen is that only the largest commodity suppliers that can really leverage their supply chain will remain, and for the more complex components (think bumper assemblies or the electronics for them supporting all kinds of sensors) will likley consolidate to a handful of manufacturers who may eventually specialize in what they produce. This is part of the reason why seemingly minor crashes cost so much - an auto brand does nst have the parts on hand to replace an integrated sensor , nor the expertice as they never built them, but bought them). And their suppliers, in attempt to cut costs, build them in way that is cheap to manufacture (not necessarily poorly bulit) but difficult to replace without swapping entire assemblies or units).I've love to see an article on repair costs and how those are impacting insurance rates. You almost need gap insurance now because of how quickly cars depreciate yet remain expensive to fix (orders more to originally build, in some cases). No way I would buy a CyberTruck - don't want one, but if I did, this would stop me. And it's not just EVs.
  • Joe65688619 I agree there should be more sedans, but recognize the trend. There's still a market for performance oriented-drivers. IMHO a low budget sedan will always be outsold by a low budget SUV. But a sports sedan, or a well executed mid-level sedan (the Accord and Camry) work. Smaller market for large sedans except I think for an older population. What I'm hoping to see is some consolidation across brands - the TLX for example is not selling well, but if it was offered only in the up-level configurations it would not be competing with it's Honda sibling. I know that makes the market smaller and niche, but that was the original purpose of the "luxury" brands - badge-engineering an existing platform at a relatively lower cost than a different car and sell it with a higher margin for buyers willing and able to pay for them. Also creates some "brand cachet." But smart buyers know that simple badging and slightly better interiors are usually not worth the cost. Put the innovative tech in the higher-end brands first, differentiate they drivetrain so it's "better" (the RDX sells well for Acura, same motor and tranmission, added turbo which makes a notable difference compared to the CRV). The sedan in many Western European countries is the "family car" as opposed to micro and compact crossovers (which still sell big, but can usually seat no more than a compact sedan).
  • Jonathan IMO the hatchback sedans like the Audi A5 Sportback, the Kia Stinger, and the already gone Buick Sportback are the answer to SUVs. The A5 and the AWD version of the Stinger being the better overall option IMO. I drive the A5, and love the depth and size of the trunk space as well as the low lift over. I've yet to find anything I need to carry that I can't, although I admit I don't carry things like drywall, building materials, etc. However, add in the fun to drive handling characteristics, there's almost no SUV that compares.