Jeep dealers are now discounting Gladiator models by as much as $9,000, indicating demand for the Wangler-based pickup has seriously cooled off. Considering the insane markups we saw at launch, that’s not much of an insult.
Now that Fiat Chrysler only reports sales on a quarterly basis — an obnoxious trend sweeping through the industry like a plague — we don’t know how many Gladiators leave dealer lots month-to-month. It looks like the pickup averaged a hair above 5,000 U.S. deliveries every thirty days in 2019. That’s a far cry from the midsize pickup segment leaders, but it was also the first year of Gladiator production.
With oodles of character, legitimate off-road capabilities and higher-than-average pricing, it’s also a bit of an odd duck. While interesting designs can occasionally be too much for a (sometimes large) subset of shoppers, pricing can make or break a car’s sales prowess. Some are of the mind that Jeep expected too much from consumers and that these lofty discounts are proof.
Wandering the 2020 Chicago Auto Show floor on the second media day, I entertained myself by playing with trucks.
More specifically, I tinkered with the trick tailgates found on GMC and Ram models, plus the in-bed cooler offered by Honda’s Ridgeline. Also springing to mind is the available roll-up tonneau cover offered by Jeep’s Gladiator, as well as that old stalwart, the RamBox.
Jeep’s Gladiator pickup truck was one of 2019’s most anticipated vehicles. Fast-forward nearly a year, and it’s an award winner.
There’s no doubt it’s a capable off-roader, which is part of its appeal — and a part of why it’s an award-winning pickup. I’ve experienced it off-road, and so has contributor Chris Chin.
Thing is, most truck owners won’t taking it off-road that often, if at all. What’s it like to live with the Gladiator in urban and suburban settings? That is the key question.
In a word: Interesting.
I knew I might need wheels during a week-long trip to Los Angeles. I was hoping for something well-suited for a run over the Angeles Crest Highway.
Instead, a Jeep Grand Cherokee was the vehicle available. I hadn’t driven one in years, but I’ve always been fond of the current generation — a generation that is aging rapidly. Would the ravages of time sour my opinions?
Short answer: No. While aging, the Grand Cherokee remains a pleasant SUV for around-town commuting, with off-road capability in its back pocket.
The midsize pickup truck market was once thought dead, particularly in the wake of seemingly unstoppable sales in the full-size class. But after General Motors brought forth updated generations of the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon a few years ago, Ford brought the Ranger back to North American shores, realizing that it couldn’t sit on the sidelines, joining the Japanese stalwarts – the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. Now midsize pickup market isn’t just heating up, it’s starting to catch fire.
To see if they’re up to the task of some good ‘ole classic four-wheelin’, I took part in an event that rounded them all up — well, nearly all of them — at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area in Eastern Pennsylvania for a day to test their off-road chops.
Although they may not seem quite as imposing as the larger full-size pickups, these midsize brutes offer plenty of capability. Their smaller footprint also allows for easier maneuverability around tight trails. So a bunch of us auto journalists gathered up all the contenders in the most off-road-biased specification to duke it out for off-roading superiority: The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, Ford Ranger FX4, Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.
There’s not a lot of major change that would be acceptable to Jeep Wrangler buyers. They have a set image of what the vehicle should look like and what it should be. Deviate too far from that formula, either in terms of style or mission, and there will be trouble.
According to Jeep brand bosses, there was one thing that buyers were “clamoring” for — an item that would change the model’s character without affecting styling or negatively affecting capability, on- or off-road.
That thing? A diesel engine.
Reports of alarming oscillations transmitted through the steering wheels of various Jeep Wranglers started landing on the NHTSA’s lap last year, years after off-road enthusiasts began complaining of the same issue. A product of a solid front axle, higher speeds, and an unexpected jolt — like hitting a bump in the road — the so-called “death wobble” sparked a class-action lawsuit that alleges Jeep’s Wrangler boasts an inherently unsafe axle and suspension design.
Now Fiat Chrysler says it has a solution to the wobble, with notifications headed to owners’ mailboxes from coast to coast. Will the supposed fix serve to pour cold water over the lawsuit? At this point, it doesn’t seem so.
If you were waiting for a special-order new GMC Sierra or Jeep Gladiator to show up at a West Coast dealership, you might have to wait a little longer. Unfortunately there was a train derailment in Lincoln County, Nevada, yesterday, and some of the victims were brand-new pickups.
Today’s truck trio includes three very expensive rigs that aren’t likely be used for hauling duties or any other truck-type responsibilities. And that’s a good thing, because they’re loaded up on equipment and leather, and covered in nice metallic paint. Which nice truck gets used as kindling? Let’s find out.
Jeep engineers and PR folks wasted no time in telling media, assembled in Sacramento to drive the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator mid-size pickup, that this truck is more than just a Wrangler with a pickup bed slapped on the back.
Technically speaking, it’s true — there are key mechanical and structural differences. So no one who uttered this assertion was lying.
But while those mechanical differences are important, they don’t change the fact that the Gladiator still feels just like a Wrangler with a bed. No matter what anyone from Jeep tells you, the Gladiator is, in a way, a Wrangler with a bed.
And that will be a good thing for many, if not most, potential buyers.
I want first to apologize to the Jeep owners of northern Columbus, and by extension all brethren of the seven-slot grille everywhere. In my week driving this 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, I neglected to properly wave in most cases.
It’s a Jeep thing, and apparently I don’t understand.
I suppose it’s an ethical thing — can I be a properly unbiased journalist if I gonzo myself into the Jeep subculture? Moreover, is this, a Jeep Wrangler with a hybrid system, a proper Jeep?
As we told you yesterday, a settlement in Fiat Chrysler’s diesel quandary could come any day. Today, we’re telling you it could come, well, today.
According to sources who spoke to the New York Times, FCA plans to settle a 2017 Justice Department lawsuit by making a collection of 104,000 trucks and SUVs greener, while adding an average of $2,500 to owners’ wallets.
You knew this one was coming.
The unveiling of Jeep’s first truck in nigh thirty years was a widely anticipated event at the L.A. Auto Show, with our man on the ground reporting at the time that neither man nor beast could get handy to the media area. Gaining admission during the reveal was only slightly less difficult than beating Reid Bigland at arm wrestling.
While we’re still sans pricing, we do know the level of kit bestowed on each trim of Gladiator, including – wait for it! – the base model.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley, thrust unexpectedly into the leader’s chair following Sergio Marchionne’s death in early July, has called on a former Amazon executive to serve as chief operating officer.
The automaker announced Thursday that Mark Stewart, 51, ex Vice President of Operations for the online commerce giant, will take on the role of COO of the critically important North American region, removing that job from Manley’s plate. Like his predecessor, Manley wore more than one hat. Now, it’s up to Stewart to ensure that profits continue climbing in the land of Rams and Jeeps.
When Jeep finally rolls out the Grand Wagoneer early next decade, there’s a chance buyers might fork over upwards of $100,000 for the hulking luxo-ute, depending on trim. Two years before ascending to the CEO’s office, then-Jeep head Mike Manley speculated that, if the vehicle was right, people might spend up to $140,000 on a Jeep-badged SUV.
Well, British buyers will be able to do that next year.
Outside of a Nissan-hosted panel preceding the first media day, the typically mobility discussion was muted at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show (and even that panel wasn’t nearly as eye-roll inducing as the usual Ford pronouncements — at least this panel included actual experts making reasonable points, even if I disagree with some of them.)
L.A. was all about the cars – cars you’ll soon be able to buy, should you have the means.
The midsize truck market’s explosive growth has already brought the Ford Ranger back to our spacious skies and amber waves of grain. However, Jeep thinks America the Beautiful wants a midsize truck that tackles the purple mountains’ majesties while looking down upon the fruited plains. Enter the 2020 Jeep Gladiator; the vehicle that Jeep calls the most capable midsize truck ever.
Jeep customers have been vocal about their lust for a Jeep truck ever since the Jeep Comanche ended production 25 years ago. The dream of the capability of a Wrangler in a truck package has been elusive. Customers demanding such a vehicle have been forced to fulfill their desires in the aftermarket. That is, until now.
During Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s final days, he said his company would begin prioritizing Jeep production in Europe. This of course comes at the expense of the Fiat brand, which lost a sizable hunk of the European market after 2009 and appears to be outright failing in the United States.
While the brand gained back some of that lost ground east of the Atlantic over the past two years, Fiat’s Jeep stablemate took off like a rocket after 2013 — effectively tripling its share of the European market. Eager to cater to the ever-changing tastes of consumers, FCA is going to stick with Jeep and make some money. As a byproduct, the company thinks it may be able to revitalize Italy’s manufacturing industry, bolster overall volume, and get some laid-off employees back onto the factory floor.
However, it’s not just Jeep that’s getting special treatment. FCA intends to do the same for Alfa Romeo and Maserati, as their products boast higher margins than anything Fiat builds.
This, apparently, is it. The Jeep Wrangler pickup, which we just learned will resurrect the Gladiator name from the dustbin of Jeep’s past.
Details and very pleasing images of the model, scheduled for an L.A. debut at the end of the month, were apparently posted to Fiat Chrysler’s media site for a brief time, during which the now-renamed JeepGladiatorForum secured screenshots.
Since reports arose last year of Jeep’s intention to use the long-departed Scrambler name for the upcoming Wrangler-based pickup, the media has more or less run with this assumption, placing a faint asterisk next to the moniker. Would it bother you to learn this might not be the pickup’s name?
Probably not, once you learn the real name, which Fiat Chrysler apparently posted on its media site for a brief period of time. Images of swords and armored breastplates usually have that effect.
Or, at least, Italian communities. In an unexpected benefit of Fiat Chrysler and its Italian-American relations, a few of the Arma dei Carabinieri are being outfitted with armored Jeep Grand Cherokees. Nineteen of them, to be precise.
With power going to all four wheels, Italian cops should be able to chase their quarry clear across Trevi Fountain. All it needs are some Boadicea wheel attachments.
Reading Matt Posky’s review of the new Edge ST got me thinking about CUVs of the expensive variety. Though Ford argues that the Edge ST is in a “white space” of its own because of the serious performance it achieves, I’m not so sure. I’m not so sure that outright performance makes that much of a difference in this segment.
Let’s put it to the people and find out if I’m wrong.
There’s a raft of changes coming to Jeep’s Renegade for the 2019 model year, but the brand’s run-down of the various alterations for the U.S. market didn’t include the possibility of a gas-electric variant. That’s what’s coming to the model, however, as Fiat Chrysler looks to ditch its overseas diesel powerplants by 2021 and curry favor with green governments (and buyers).
On Monday, Jeep announced it had begun preparations for the production of a plug-in hybrid variant of its smallest model.
Jeep’s smallest model has a new uplevel engine for 2019, one that brings to mind the revered and diminutive Suzuki Samurai of the late 1980s. That model also housed a 1.3-liter engine, though the Suzuki’s mill boasted, in a manner of speaking, just 63 horsepower.
The Jeep Renegade’s new 1.3-liter four-cylinder isn’t likely to remind anyone of ’80s featherweight Japanese utes.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley just can’t keep his hands off the Jeep brand. In his first management reorganization since assuming the top position in July, Manley placed the responsibility for key FCA brands in trustworthy hands, though the CEO seems reluctant to part ways with his beloved Jeep.
Prior to becoming CEO, Manley headed up both the Jeep and Ram divisions. Now, Tim Kuniskis will add the Jeep North America file to his responsibilities, maintaining his grip on the Alfa Romeo brand. Given that there was no mention in Manley’s letter to employees of who’ll oversee Jeep’s global operations, it is assumed the chief executive will continue nurturing FCA’s most valuable asset on the world stage.
Without its juggernaut Jeep division, Fiat Chrysler would find itself in deep trouble. We’re talking Mitsubishi, circa 2013, sorts of trouble. On a year-to-date basis, all of FCA’s brands save for Jeep and the low-volume, niche Alfa Romeo took a sales tumble in the United States. It’s the same story north of the border.
In both countries, Jeep is FCA’s knight in shining armor (coming to its financial rescue), only in Canada it’s not enough to boost flagging year-over-year sales. FCA’s volume sank 10 percent in August, while in the U.S. it rose 10 percent. Year to date, FCA’s up 5 percent in the U.S. and down 14 percent in the Great White North.
Why such a disparity between sales directions? It seems to come down, at least partly, to Jeep posting far greater gains in the U.S. than in Canada. Even within the division, there’s quite a difference between what buyers in both countries want.
Jeep updated several of its models for 2019, but appears to be downplaying some of the new features. Case in point is the new Grand Cherokee, which comes with new standard safety equipment, a handful of changes, and a “Limited X” variant offering some unique visuals. But the brand only made casual mention of it in its 2019 model fact sheet, released earlier this month.
The rest of the Grand Cherokee fleet marches onward with the same general appearance and specs as the 2018 model year. However, they will receive blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection as standard kit, as well as some infotainment upgrades. Meanwhile, the Grand Cherokee Limited X boasts a more aggressive front and rear fascia, performance hood, “Granite Crystal” (see: shiny, super-dark gray) exterior accents and new 20-inch Low Gloss Granite Crystal wheels.
Long before the Wrangler and Cherokee became Jeep’s household names, and even before the Jeep brand existed as we know it today, the company known as Kaiser Jeep produced the Jeepster Commando. And for a few special examples, Hurst made some of its own modifications.
Let’s have a look at a special proto-Cherokee:
Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, but Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is none too pleased with an Indian automaker’s plan to foist a Jeep CJ-like all-terrain vehicle on the United States market.
Mahindra & Mahindra’s Roxor is a larger ATV with a conventional layout and appearance that splits the difference between brush-busting fare from Polaris, et al, and road-legal off-roaders like the Jeep Wrangler. There’s a 2.5-liter inline-four diesel up front, and drivers put the power to all four wheels via an honest-to-goodness five-speed manual transmission. Oh, and it really, really looks like a Jeep CJ. We’re gaga over them.
FCA sure isn’t.
In a month Mike Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation Inc, described as a “ clunker,” numerous automakers took a hit. New vehicle sales in the U.S. fell by 3.7 percent compared to the same month last year, and lucky was the automaker that escaped the buying public’s cold shoulder.
Among the Detroit Three, Fiat Chrysler had the distinction of heading in the right direction as rivals GM and Ford fell. It wasn’t even a close race. FCA posted a year-over-year sales gain of 6 percent, with year-to-date volume up 5 percent. Naturally, Jeep led the way.
But not everything’s rosy on the North American continent. North of the 49th parallel, fate detained FCA’s good fortune at the border, leaving the automaker with a very steep sales loss. Only two brands posted a sales gain in July, and one of them seems to only have one model in the running.
Monday’s QOTD post by Matthew Guy inquiring about some of the seriously overpriced metal on today’s collector car market got me thinking. And what it got me thinking about was the present state of cars, and if there’s going to be much worthy of collecting at a later date.
We’re in some dark times, automotively speaking. Allow me to explain.
Former Jeep and Ram boss Mike Manley was a top choice among the candidates competing to succeed Sergio Marchionne, but no one could have expected his ascension to the CEO’s chair would occur in such a sudden, tragic manner.
During his first earning call, Manley was forced to address not just his predecessor’s death — which occurred mere hours before investors, analysts, and journalists picked up the phone — but also the automaker’s slipping grasp on the Chinese market. FCA’s revenue and net income took a haircut in the second quarter of 2018. The company’s share price plunged in the wake of news of Marchionne’s death. And, last but not least, there’s tariffs flying left and right, cutting into the automaker’s earnings — indeed, the company has already readjusted its earnings forecast downward.
Some first week on the job.
That’s the word that kept flowing from pen to notepad as I tried to collect my thoughts on this 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The thought of 707 supercharged horsepower in a midsized family SUV is nothing but absurd.
And yet, if you don’t mind getting friendly with both your neighborhood gas station owner and your local replacement tire shop over your ownership term, the Trackhawk is a compelling choice. Unless you relish anonymity.
The shadowy future Jeep model that probably should have been in production by now continues to entice fans of the original Grand Wagoneer. It’s expected that the largest of all Jeeps will arrive not too imminently, using the 2019 Ram 1500’s frame as a backbone.
There’ll be size and luxury in spades (the thing might top out above $100k), but until now we hadn’t heard anything about power. It’s now possible that we’ll see a Trackhawk variant that uses the upgraded 6.2-liter supercharged V8 found in Dodge’s refreshed 2019 Challenger Hellcat. Possible, but perhaps not probable.
“It’s a Jeep thing; you wouldn’t understand.” That phrase might be a breathtaking bit of cultural appropriation at a level that shocks even your aging and decidedly hidebound author, but it’s not wrong.
Consider, if you will, the vehicle pictured above. It’s the old “Wrangler JK” — a vehicle which has had a decade-plus run as talisman, touchstone, profit center, and Jurassic-DNA-in-mosquito-frozen-in-amber for Chrysler in no fewer than three corporate iterations. From the moment you touch the rough plastic of the pushbutton exterior doorhandle, it’s absurdly plain that everything on this vehicle was designed from the outset to cut costs, only to have more costs cut as the years go on. Not that the bones of the thing aren’t fit for purpose — they are — but my God has there been a Great Cheapening going on in Wrangler-land over the past few years.
“Listen, dummy,” you’re no doubt saying, “of course this is going to be cheaped-out. It’s the final form of the model, kept in production until recently for the rental fleets, the skinflints, and the people who are both allergic to change and unable to get themselves to a dealership during an entire year’s worth of new-for-2018 Wrangler publicity. What did you expect? A ‘Golden Eagle’ luxury model?” Well yes, I did expect that, and they did in fact make some, but that’s not the problem here. Nor is it the fact that Jeep ran the old model for an extra year. That was a groundbreaking practice in 1996 when Ford did it to hedge its bets with the jellybean ’97 F-150, but it’s become fairly common in the two decades since then. Birds do it, bees do it, Malibus do it. (A bit of trivia for you: Ford had planned to do that as well with the 1986 Taurus, by keeping the aero Fox LTD in production at the Atlanta plant, but as the zero hour approached they decided to go all-in on the new car. What a disaster that would have been.)
No, my beef with this coupon-clipper old-shape 2018 Jeep is as follows: It ain’t cheap.
The year is 2000, and a whole bunch of people have just recovered from an unnecessary panic over how computers worldwide would tackle the date change from ’99 to ’00. Crisis averted, and with Nokia candy bar phone in pocket, they headed to dealerships to buy midsize luxury SUVs with their newfound Dot Com cash.
Which millennium-mobile gets the Buy?
Jeeps smallest U.S. offering stands to be hit hard by proposed import tariffs, according to calculations from an investment advisory firm, and the volume of vehicles Fiat Chrysler brings in from outside U.S. borders would see the automaker take it on the chin.
With the Trump administration mulling a range of tariffs, the firm tabulated just how much the import duties could cost FCA. If the tariffs come to pass, expect to see fewer Jeep Renegades on your local dealer lot.
Jeep’s been on a tear lately, with the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee arguably the two models keeping all the lights on at FCA. Even the regular, not-so-grand Cherokee has been doing well in dealers. Now, the muddy brand that’s driving the company is turning its attention to its littlest machine – the Renegade.
In Europe at least, there will be a bevy of new engines, including a 1.0-liter turbocharged inline-three. Limited and Trailhawk trims promise to increase the trucklet’s average transaction price.
The subcompact Jeep Renegade, despite not carrying the heritage and go-anywhere trail cred of the Wrangler, remains a valuable asset for Fiat Chrysler, and with good reason. The Fiat-based model sets the lineup’s price floor, luring first-time buyers into the brand — hopefully for life.
As we saw earlier this month, there’s a mildly refreshed Renegade arriving for the 2019 model year. Unfortunately, the model’s European debut didn’t tell us much about engine availability for U.S. buyers. It now looks like an FCA service portal provided some of the answers to our powertrain questions.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety never rests, always thinking up new ways to expose flaws in contemporary passenger vehicles. Lately, the IIHS has begun applying the dreaded small overlap front crash test to the passenger side of new models. There’s a seat on that side for a reason, and it’s not inconceivable that a roadside utility pole or obstruction could take out that corner of the vehicle.
The latest IIHS test put popular midsize crossovers through their paces, exposing serious safety concerns in two models.
Somewhere in my basement there’s an issue of Roundel, the BMW club magazine, that contains an extremely passionate and forceful article regarding a new vehicle from Munich. The author goes on in considerable detail regarding the new car’s size, weight, and insane complexity. He rails against the dilution of BMW’s Autobahn heritage and the compromises the firm is making to attract a wider audience. Lastly, he offers his sincere condolences to the shade-tree mechanics because this new car will be impossible to service anywhere but a dealership.
Those of you who read Roundel back in the day will no doubt guess that this flabby, super-computerized BMW was, in fact, the 1977 320i.
But here’s the thing: All of the complaints in the article were valid. It’s just that the E30 which followed made the E21 320i look fairly simple. The E36 was a rocketship compared to its predecessor and the E46 was a spaceship. Each time the cars changed, the enthusiast base swore loyalty to the relative simplicity and fitness-for-purpose of the old one. Then, as the stock of decent used inventory dwindled and the parts became impossible to find and the lap times continues to sink, that base made a slow and painful transition to the next model in line. This in no way invalidates criticism of the old cars. It’s just that for most people, they had no choice other than to upgrade. It’s possible to keep an old mechanical watch in daily use; it’s not tough at all to keep carrying a Remington-Rand-made Colt pistol from 1942. But cars are vastly more complex than either of those machines.
When the Jeep Liberty replaced the old “XJ” Cherokee, it was universally reviled as a cutesy piece of garbage better suited for the mall crawl than the rock crawl. Alas, tempus fugit and it’s now time for the old Liberty to get a second act.
The smallest American Jeep model underwent a nip and tuck for the 2019 model year, and its parent company decided to take the bandages off at the Wednesday’s Turin Motor Show. Only natural, given its Italian architecture.
While Jeep’s Renegade currently serves as the first rung in a tall (and soon to be taller) ladder, there’s a smaller sibling planned for overseas markets. Here, we can expect its entry-level status to remain intact. So, what does 2019 hold for the little ute? A greater attempt at visual brawn, for one, plus three new engines.
Yes, I know. You’re all yelling at me for displaying the machine shown above in that obnoxious shade of Nuclear Green (it’s actually Hypergreen, according to Jeep). However, the color’s very availability is what cemented today’s post after finding the bargain-basement Nissan Kicks is only available on the greyscale.
This irritates me to no end. I totally get why certain carmakers reserve eye-popping hues for higher-spec trims: transaction prices, profits, and the Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #10. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The 2018 Jeep Cherokee is under recall due to some improperly fitted fuel tubes. As the issue relates to the possibility of a gas leak, this falls under the fire-risk category and should have people freaking out left and right. However, the problem is only associated with Cherokees equipped with the 16-valve 2.4-liter inline-four engine.
FCA’s internal report, according to the recall filing, noted that an investigation revealed “a batch of fuel-supply tubes may have connectors that were incorrectly fitted” on the 2018 model year. Fortunately, the refreshed Jeeps for 2019 don’t appear to be affected.
The 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL is not the inline-six-powered, aerodynamic brick it was in years past. For the current generation model — now the only Wrangler built in Toledo — Jeep’s Jeepiest Jeep saw a host of improvements designed to lighten its curb weight, reduce aerodynamic drag, and cover more ground on a gallon of gas.
The model launched with only the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 under its hood, aided in its fuel-sipping mission by standard stop/start and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Depending on the model and tranny, combined fuel economy rose 2 mpg between the old JK and newer JL models, and highway mileage rose as much as 4 mpg.
Finally, we now have EPA figures for the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder Wrangler.
If you didn’t pop into a Fiat Chrysler dealer last month to pick up a Jeep Wrangler, congratulations, you’re now a nonconformist.
April was the best-ever U.S. sales month for the go-anywhere model, but the cause had more to do with availability than Americans suddenly discovering their rugged side. With old and new models rolling off of two Toledo assembly lines, buyers found themselves spoiled for choice. (The JK model ceased production on April 27th).
How well did the Wrangler do last month? The model accounted for almost as many sales as the entire Acura and Infiniti brands combined.
Today is a sad day for the most hard-core of traditionalists and an exciting one. As we told you earlier in the week, the last Jeep Wrangler JK rolls out of the Toledo Assembly Complex today, after which the line shuts down for retooling. But the end of 12 years of JK (and JKU) production heralds the introduction of a long sought-after model: a Wrangler-based pickup, possibly named the Scrambler, which should arrive next spring.
With death comes life, but in the automotive world, nothing’s eternal.
Now that the JK’s life has drawn to a close, perhaps it’s time to do a little reminiscing — not just about experiences in the Wrangler JK, but in any Jeep.
Amid all the hoopla surrounding the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL, you’d be forgiven for not realizing there are still versions of the old model rolling off Jeep’s Toledo assembly line. But not for long.
Assembly of the Wrangler JK, introduced for the 2007 model year, carried on alongside its updated near-twin after the JL entered production last November, but that line grinds to a halt on Friday, April 27th. The model isn’t wanted anymore, and there’s an awfully lucrative vehicle that needs the space.
Jeep really loves touting its off-road heritage, along with the capability of its current stable of SUVs. To that end, FCA invited Chicago-area automotive media out to play in the mud at an off-road park in central Illinois.
The very same off-road park in which I stuffed a Ford Raptor into the mud, multiple times.
Even though this was not a traditional first drive, and I’d driven both the new Wrangler and new Cherokee off-road – one in Arizona, the other in California – I wanted a little more time with both away from the pavement. Especially since the never-ending winter of 2018 provided rain and snow in the days leading up to the drive.
That meant there’d be mud, and lots of it.
I’m certainly an outcast among automotive journalists. So many in this line of work absolutely fetishize the Jeep brand. Mottos like “It’s A Jeep Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand” and “If You Can Read This, Roll Me Over” flow through reviews and tweets like a lifted CJ on thirty fives. I’ve never really seen the appeal. I’m a suburbanite to the bone and, as such, I’ve never had the need or desire to take a vehicle off-road.
My first experiences with Jeeps came as a service writer, where I’d drive a vehicle to try and better relay handling problems to the tech. Every Jeep I drove was a loose-steering, ill-handling pig. Of course, in that job I was always driving vehicles that needed work, but the pride of Toledo always seemed particularly nasty on the tarmac.
Jeep was listening, it seems, as it has begun offering a variety of car-based crossovers that are pavement rated. Take this 2017 Jeep Compass Limited — the big 19 inch alloys with low-profile tires make the intended path quite clear. Has the essence of Jeepness become eroded, or can this Compass point the way forward?
Jeep and Mopar have teamed up to create another round of concept vehicles for the annual Easter Jeep Safari. Now in its 52nd year, thousands of off-road enthusiasts will once again head to Moab, Utah, for a week of technical off-roading and dirt-related camaraderie. They’ll also get to see these 4x4s in the flesh. This year’s batch was a little less showy than the previous annum, but pursuing substance over style isn’t a terrible impulse when you’re planning on slamming a vehicle into boulders all day.
“Pushing the limit is something the Jeep brand is no stranger to and these seven new, exciting and capable concept vehicles are the latest example of that,” said Jeep head Mike Manley. “Every year, we look forward to introducing new concept vehicles and ideas to our enthusiasts. The Moab Easter Jeep Safari presents a unique and perfect opportunity to collect valuable insight from our most loyal customers.”
Two years ago, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne could barely contain his enthusiasm for the Jeep brand and its barely-tapped global appeal. A sales juggernaut in America, the rugged, go-anywhere brand had a stable of models ripe for the global picking. All it needed was more local production, more new models, and voila — world-straddling dominance.
Two years later, and the brand’s growth predictions are starting to look less than plausible. Marchionne hoped for worldwide Jeep sales of 2 million vehicles in 2018, but last year’s sales may well have been a glass of cold water in the face. While the brand’s strategy could still pay off, it’s going to take longer than expected to reach Marchionne’s target.
Forget the minor markets — Europe needs to learn to love Jeep, America needs to pick up the pace, and China can’t back off now.
Humanizing animals is the easiest way to help kids sympathize with the plight of small, cuddly forest creatures, and thus the easiest way to turn them into staunch environmentalists. People do this because it works. It’s easy, and it sticks. How many non-hunters picture Bambi’s ill-fated mother when they consider taking up the outdoorsman life? Probably quite a few.
In the auto realm, humanization of cars is mainly the domain of Disney and Pixar and schlocky horror directors. Movies like The Love Bug, Cars, Christine, and The Car appeal to very different audiences, but they all succeed in humanizing their subjects to some degree. A car can be a living thing, menacing or cute, cuddly or lethal, if deep-pocketed filmmakers or marketing types desire it. We can even put ourselves in the shoes (brake shoes?) of a car.
Well, those deep-pocketed people have now humanized the Jeep Wrangler. It was born. It lives. It has a voice. But does it speak to you?
Unlike other vehicles in the Fiat Chrysler lineup, and we could list off a number of them, Jeep’s Wrangler line has a near supernatural ability to hold on to its value. Does worrying about depreciation keep you up at night? Forget that compact sedan and shell out a little more for a Wrangler.
For non-buyers, however, the leases offered by Jeep on both the 2018 JK Wrangler Unlimited and next-generation 2018 JL Wrangler Unlimited present both an opportunity and a mystery. Strangely, the cost of leasing an all-new Wrangler amounts to one dollar a month less than the cost of leasing the old Wrangler. What gives?
Late last year, I selected Jeep’s JL Wrangler as an Ace of Base once pricing for the snazzy new off-road rig was freshly announced.
That was 43 days ago, at which point I theorized that Wrangler shoppers would likely need to be weary of dealer bait-and-switch tactics, as both the new JL and the old JK are 2018 models. Specifically, I said:
Readers can be assured, then, of hearing hyper-caffeinated sales staff blaring in radio ads about ZOMG GREAT DEALZ ON 2018 WRANGLERS – only for frustrated shoppers to discover they are actually talking about the lame-duck Jeep and not the shiny new off-roader.
Well, that didn’t take long.
When the last Cherokee showed up in 2014, its front fascia was comprised of an alarming set of headlights set deep into a scowling bumper, paired with toenail-clipping DRLs at the leading edge of its hood. It was distinctive, to be kind.
This year at Detroit, a refreshed Cherokee took the FCA stage, sporting a handsome new mug that apes the corporate face. With detailed pricing recently released, there’s no better time to see if Jeep’s trucklet can pass the Ace of Base test.