Better Late Than Never: There's Probably Plenty of Room for a Full-size Jeep SUV

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The Jeep Wagoneer looms. So does its ultra-lux sibling, the Grand Wagoneer. A seemingly obvious product that Fiat Chrysler didn’t get around to developing until late last decade, the full-size, Ram 1500-based SUV should reach buyers in 2021.

Will they line up for a chance to take home a vehicle bearing this heritage-steeped nameplate? Probably. America hasn’t lost its penchant for large vehicles, and if you think a shattered economy will push buyers into something else, think again.

A depressed economy will lead to a reduction in sales volumes, but bigger, more expensive vehicles seem to avoid disproportional pain during such downturns. Assuming there’s a lineup of smaller and cheaper vehicles funding their existence, that is — and that’s certainly the case with FCA, as well as rivals General Motors and Ford.

In 2019, with the economy burning bright and no sign of turmoil on the horizon, domestic full-size SUVs accounted for 2.15 of all U.S. new vehicle sales. Two automakers with a platform apiece, and eight models split unevenly between them, sold 368,291 high-margin vehicles to the American public, even with climate change as the country’s topmost issue and electric vehicles making inroads (while gobbling up a ridiculous amount of digital page space).

A new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator for 2018 helped Ford boost its share of the domestic full-size SUV segment, with the aging Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, GMC Yukon/XL, and Cadillac Escalade/ESV slipping for a second year in a row.

Total volume of this cohort topped that of all fully electric vehicles on sale in the U.S. by about 50 percent in 2019. Two companies, two platforms shared with other lucrative models. The segment’s not going anywhere.

It’s a resilient one, too. In 2009, no one’s idea of a good sales year, these same eight models accounted for an ever-so-slightly greater share of the country’s annual new vehicle volume (2.16 percent), and that was with seriously depressed fleet orders that typically add wind to the rough-and-tumble Tahoe’s sails. Market in disarray, jobs gone, but big, gas-sucking vehicles still managed to hold on to their share of the market.

Barring some kind of Explorer/Aviator quality disaster right out of the gate, the Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer will arrive with appeal in tow. For one, it boasts a familiar nameplate, sold under a heritage-soaked brand Americans love. It’s based on a vehicle that’s very well received by the buying public and motoring press alike. Spy photos reveal it borrows that model’s 12-inch infotainment screen. And an independent rear suspension allows to match Ford and (for 2021) GM on that front.

Power won’t be in short supply, what with the FCA parts bin containing 5.7 and 6.4-liter Hemi V8s, with the EPA (potentially) kept at bay with engines like the eTorque 3.6-liter mild hybrid V6. FCA says there’ll be an “electrified” version, and they probably aren’t talking about a starter-generator that boosts efficiency by a MPG or two.

Who knows what kind of volume Jeep has in mind for its upcoming biggies, but concerns raised that Jeep may have missed the boat on launching a new full-sizer seemed premature in 2019 and still seem that way today.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Karonetwentyc Karonetwentyc on Jun 12, 2020

    I'd just like to see Jeep return from being a brand (as opposed to manufacturer) appealing to lifestylers wanting to build a SICK JEEP BRAH. Unfortunately, it's too late to pull that particular train back into the station. So, any news on when can we get an Angry Eyes grille for the Wagoneer twins straight from Mopar?

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jun 13, 2020

    Why show the old Wagoneer? It was actually smaller than the current Grand Cherokee, in length, width, and wheelbase. What Jeep needs is the size of a 1950 Dodge Commercial woodie station wagon.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three