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  1. Analysis
January 29, 2018

ANALYSIS – FCA planning multiple future Jeep SUVs

The final feature in the FCA current and future models series is all about Jeep, the company's largest division by worldwide sales volume. Earlier instalments looked at Fiat and Abarth, Chrysler, Dodge and Ram, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and, most recently, Ferrari.

The final feature in the FCA current and future models series is all about Jeep, the company’s largest division by worldwide sales volume. Earlier instalments looked at Fiat and Abarth, Chrysler, Dodge and Ram, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and, most recently, Ferrari.

On the surface of things, Jeep didn’t have the greatest of years in its largest market, US sales dipping by 11 percent to 828,522. Several factors were at work.

The Renegade has been on the market for too long without a styling update. This is perplexing but not uncharacteristic behaviour for an FCA division. The subcompact SUV doesn’t make a lot of money for the company but it’s nonetheless an important, affordably priced entry point to the brand. A facelift is finally coming so 2018 should be a better year for the baby Jeep.

As will be discussed below, the Grand Cherokee is a model which could not be called fresh and yet it is selling very well indeed. That is due to new editions being added to generate dealership traffic. These worked a treat, deliveries rising by 13 per cent to 240,696.

The loss of the Patriot should have knocked a big hole in US market Jeep sales and it’s a credit to the brand’s dealers that they were able to keep the year on year dip to just 11 percent: more than 80,000 units of the Patriot were ‘lost’ in 2017 compared to 2016, which was the last full year for that vehicle which FCA decided it would not directly replace.

One worrisome development was a 15 per cent fall in Cherokee deliveries to 169,882 units. Handily, an updated model has already been announced for the 2019 model year and will soon be rolling off dealers’ lots.

Jeep remains very heavily dependent on the US market.

Jeep remains very heavily dependent on the US market. Its management has been taking much action to address this. Several models are now built in China, while the Renegade has of course been manufactured in Italy for almost four years.

It was a good year for European market registrations. According to ACEA, the brand’s numbers hit six figures, the Brussels-based association’s data showing 101,915 deliveries for CY2017.

Asia-Pacific was another bright spot last year, China of course making up the lion’s share of regional sales which are said to have crossed the 240,000 units mark.

Worldwide, Jeep is said to have seen a one per cent gain to slightly north of 1.4 million, which all in all isn’t a bad result. The brand claims a decision was taken to allow the previous year’s low-margin or even loss making fleet sales in the US to fall by almost two thirds. You can certainly see that from the numbers for the Cherokee and, towards the end of 2017, for the Renegade too. 

A fantastic goal of two million deliveries worldwide target by 2018, set in 2013 has always been just that. Jeep has done incredibly well to get to the 1.4m mark it should not be forgotten, no matter what Mike Manley’s bosses say publicly. There were some odd pronouncements on this topic made at the recent Detroit auto show.

The desire to be selling two million vehicles a year could eventually be realistic. As of now, with Jeep being told to keep pulling back from business with fleets, it’s simply not going to happen. Additional models coming in 2019 and 2020 should propel the brand across the line to 1.5m. That would be a terrific result if it also comes with even better profits than what Jeep is presently delivering.

A segment

It has been a full year since Fiat Chrysler began discussions with relevant Tier 1s over a potential project for a sub-Renegade model.

If an A segment SUV is given the go-ahead it would likely share a platform and mechanicals with the Trekking version of Project 170, the next Panda.

A baby Jeep is likely to be as far off as 2021 or 2022.

The little Fiat is due to reach European markets in 2019 or 2020 but the baby Jeep is likely to be as far off as 2021 or 2022.

The Panda will move from Pomigliano d’Arco near Naples to Tychy in Poland. This could be the most logical place to produce a mini-Jeep too. However, Kragujevac is presently having troubles producing anywhere near capacity numbers of the 500L and 500L Living MPVs and FCA has spent a lot of money on the Serbian plant. Putting another SUSW architecture model into that low-cost factory could be a clever move.

Another major question raised by the shift of the Panda out of Italy and into Poland is what then happens to Pomigliano d’Arco? Is FCA quietly making plans to close it? If not, it’s far from clear what vehicle or vehicles would be made at this factory after the loss of the Panda. The baby Jeep is one option but even assuming this vehicle is a huge success it can hardly be expected to sell in six figures annually or be priced at a high level.

Worldwide, it might be a different story. The littlest Jeep could end up being quite a big deal. Such a vehicle would also potentially be very successful in Brazil and India: it could be made there too. Even though sales of the Kwid dipped in 2017, Renault India still has a sizeable hit on its hands with this A segment crossover and SUV (Kwid Climber) model range.

FCA filed a trademark application for the model name ‘Graduate‘ in October 2017. This vehicle may well be the car which uses it.

B segment

The Renegade is Jeep’s smallest current model. It was revealed at the Geneva motor show in March 2014 and is built in Italy alongside its twin, the Fiat 500X. The latter replaced the Suzuki-based Fiat Sedici. Fiat announced the build location and a euro 1bn refit for its Melfi plant in December 2012. The Renegade’s US market debut was at April 2014’s New York auto show. It went on sale in North America during December 2014, for the 2015 model year.

The architecture is SUSW (‘Small Wide’), as introduced by the Fiat 500L. Both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive variants are available.

The next Renegade should be released for North America’s 2022 model year during the fourth quarter of 2021.

Melfi is now just one of several factories which make the Renegade. Brazilian production commenced at FCA’s Goiana plant in the state of Pernambuco in April 2015.

The Renegade is also built in China. Production commenced in April 2016 at a factory in the Panyu District of Guangzhou. As a joint effort between GAC and FCA, this factory had an original production capacity of 160,000 vehicles a year.

Build is also set to commence in India later this year. Tata-FCA have likely been holding off until a mid-life facelift is announced. That should happen relatively shortly.

The next Renegade should be released for North America’s 2022 model year during the fourth quarter of 2021. It will likely be shown some six months prior to the start of production. Expect an evolution of the existing SUSW platform. There will more than likely be some form of electrification but not until 2023 or 2024. This might even be a BEV.

C segment

One size up is the 4.4m long Compass. This replaced not only the previous Compass but the Patriot too.

A rival for the Nissan X-Trail/Rogue, it had been due to go on sale in North America and Europe in early 2013 but the start of production was delayed multiple times. Production finally commenced in September 2016 with the first plant to build the model being in Brazil. Cars for North America are sourced from Mexico with build commencing at Toluca during the first quarter of 2017.

Production in India commenced in June 2017. FCA spent the equivalent of US$280m to lift the capacity of the JV plant which it operates with Tata Motors in Ranjangaon, some 50km from Pune. The Compass was the first Jeep to be made there. Cars for RHD European markets would come from India, and LHD cars from Brazil, the head of Jeep Mike Manley told journalists at the LA auto show in November 2016.

In June 2014, GAC Fiat Automobile broke ground in the south China city of Guangzhou for its second assembly plant. This 4.2 billion yuan factory is where the Compass is made. In China, the main rival is of course the hugely successful Haval H6. Production commenced in December 2016.

The US is the Compass’ largest market. There, it challenges the Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V as well as the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox and others. In Europe, where the Compass became available from the second half of 2017, the Nissan Qashqai, VW Tiguan, Peugeot 3008, Renault Koleos and other big sellers are the key competitors.

North America’s Compass had its premiere at the LA auto show in November 2016, as did the 2.4-litre engine, which is standard in the region. Front-wheel drive variants are available with a six-speed manual transmission. There are two four-wheel drive systems and that also means both six-speed and nine-speed automatic gearboxes are available for these. A rugged Trailhawk variant is part of North America’s model range. The Compass was new for the region’s 2017 model year.

The next news for the MP series Compass should be a facelift in 2020.

The next major news for the MP series Compass should be a facelift in 2020 for North America’s 2021 model year.

A next generation Compass isn’t due until the 2026 model year. It should either be based upon the same SUSW Evo architecture as the Renegade 2, or else one of the first vehicles for a future FWD/AWD modular platform.

D segment

The KL Cherokee had its global debut at the New York auto show in March 2013. Limited production started the following month but the ramp up was delayed several times as a software glitch concerning the then-new nine-speed transmission was sorted out. Chrysler began to ramp up again from October 2013.

The previous model had been the Liberty in North America but the name switched to Cherokee for all markets, with the exception of China: there it is the Zi You Guang. Production at the GAC FCA Changsha factory started in October 2015.

The main plant for the KL is FCA US’ Toledo North in Ohio. The same facility built the Liberty/old-shape Cherokee but was closed in August 2012 for a refit.

This was the first Chrysler Group model to be fitted with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The transmission is supplied from the ZF Transmission’s Gray Court plant in South Carolina. The same nine-speed unit goes into Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport models.

The standard US market engine is the Tiger Shark 2.4-litre MultiAir four-cylinder unit (184hp), with a 3.2-litre version of the Pentastar V6 (271hp) optional.

There are three 4×4 systems: Active Drive I with one-speed power transfer unit (PTU); Active Drive II with two-speed PTU and low range; and Active Drive Lock with two-speed PTU, low range and locking rear differential.

An SRT Cherokee is said to be under development.

An SRT variant is said to be under development.

The diesel versions of the Cherokee had their world premieres at the Geneva motor show in March 2014. These are 140bhp and 170bhp versions of a 2.0-litre MultiJet II engine. RHD Cherokees for the UK did not arrive there until the third quarter of 2014.

A facelift was revealed a few weeks ago at the Detroit auto show. The updated model will be North America’s 2019 model year Cherokee.

US production of the Cherokee is switching from Toledo North in Ohio to Belvidere in Illinois during this quarter. The reason is the conversion of all of FCA’s Toledo manufacturing complex to body-on-frame vehicles: the new Wrangler series is made there.

From the 2019 model year onwards, the engine line-up in North America is as follows:

  • 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir 2 four-cylinder petrol, 180hp and 170 lb.-ft.
  • 2.0-litre Global Medium Engine turbo petrol, 270hp and 295 lb.-ft. 
  • 3.2-litre Pentastar V6, 271hp and 239 lb.-ft.

The other big volume model in this size segment is the soon to be replaced Wrangler, which nonetheless continues in production for the time being. It has been renamed for the 2018 model year so as to distinguish it from the new Wrangler (see below).

The Wrangler JK dates to 2006, the model having had its debut at that year’s Detroit motor show.

In July 2013, there were reports attributed to unnamed suppliers which stated that the JL Wrangler had been delayed from 2015 to mid-2018. Then in March 2014 when FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne appeared to state in a press conference that a new Wrangler could be launched in early 2015. Just one month later, the head of Jeep told an investors’ gathering at FCA in Auburn Hills that the Wrangler would be replaced in 2017.

A pick-up bodystyle will be added for the Wrangler replacement, with such a model to be possibly sold as the Jeep Scrambler (see below). In March 2017, Mike Manley told the media that the Wrangler-based pick-up would enter production in late 2019, new for the 2020 model year in North America.

A Wrangler 2.2-litre diesel will be available in certain countries, as will a plug-in hybrid.

The new (2018MY) Wrangler, revealed at the LA auto show in November 2017, is available with a 2.0-litre ‘Hurricane’ gasoline turbo manufactured at Trenton Powertrain in Michigan as well as a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6. A 3.0-litre diesel V6 will be added later in 2018. A 2.2-litre diesel will be available in certain countries, as will a plug-in hybrid. The latter will not be added until 2019 or 2020, though.

In September 2015, FCA told staff at its Toledo plants that the next Wrangler would be built there but that the replacement for the Cherokee would move elsewhere.

There are two plants at FCA’s Toledo Assembly complex. The smaller, Toledo South, builds the body-on-frame Wrangler, while the other site, Toledo North, makes the unibody Cherokee. FCA intends to convert Toledo North to ladder frame vehicle production.

Wrangler production commenced in November 2017 just ahead of the vehicle’s world premiere at the LA auto show. The first examples of the hardtop Unlimited were in US dealerships from earlier in January. Production of versions of this body for LHD markets outside North America also commenced in January, followed by build of the first two-door Wranglers.

Variants with an electric soft-top will be added to the production mix from May. The V6 diesel should start rolling off the line at Toledo South in August, new for the 2019 model year. RHD build is due to be added in September.

As for the outgoing JK series model, it continues in production until the end of March. At that point, its production line will be taken out of service and in its place will come a line for production of the forthcoming ‘Scrambler’ pick-up.

Although the JL series looks a lot like the JK, there are significant differences. One of these is a big change for the fold-down windscreen: in the new model, the A pillars stay in place so that the Wrangler can comply with US rollover laws.

E segment

The fourth generation of the Grand Cherokee is now in its eighth year of production. New for North America’s 2011 model year, it had its world premiere at the New York Auto Show in April 2009. Series production of this five-seater SUV started in May 2010 and North American market sales commenced during the following month.

The vehicle uses a Mercedes-Benz platform, a legacy of the DaimlerChrysler and Cerberus years.

The Grand Cherokee was the first to use a range of Chrysler-developed V6 gasoline engines originally referred to as Phoenix but subsequently changed to Pentastar. The model’s base gasoline engine in all markets with the exception of China is a 290hp 3.6-litre Pentastar. The others are a 360hp (268kW) 5.7-litre V8 or a 6.4-litre V8. The latter is for the SRT8. This debuted at the New York auto show in April 2011 and went on sale across North America from July 2011 (2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8). Its original power output was 465hp (347kW) but this rose to 475hp (354hp) for the 2015 model year.

For North America’s 2012 model year, the five-speed automatic gearbox for 5.7-litre versions was swapped for a six-speed unit.

A 241kW 3.0-litre V6 diesel, which is supplied by VM Motori, debuted in the Grand Cherokee at the Geneva motor show in March 2011. The Grand Cherokee diesel was originally available in Europe and elsewhere, but not in the USA. The previous generation model was withdrawn from the US market in 2009 due to low sales. The 3.0-litre engine then premiered in an updated Grand Cherokee which was revealed at January 2013’s Detroit Auto show. In North America, it has been branded as an ‘EcoDiesel’, producing a claimed 240hp.

The 2014MY Grand Cherokee gained a styling update and an eight-speed automatic gearbox for both V6 and V8 variants (including the high performance 6.4-litre SRT, which previously had the old five-speed auto transmission).

A Grand Cherokee powered by a then-new 3.0-litre V6 had its global debut at the Chengdu motor show in August 2013. This addition to Chrysler’s Pentastar family produces 230hp. Its cubic capacity places the vehicle below a tax threshold in China.

The 2016 Grand Cherokee had some changes, most of them centred on powertrains. Two additional variants premiered at the New York auto show in March 2016. These were the 2017 Summit and the 2017 Trail Hawk. A Grand Cherokee powered by the 6.2-litre Hellcat V8 would be added from July 2017, the head of Jeep, Mike Manley, told the media in April 2016. Four months later when he spoke at the LA auto show, Manley named this variant (‘Trackhawk’) and stated in an interview that it would be revealed at the 2017 New York auto show.

The 2018 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk did indeed have its world premiere at the New York show in April 2017. It is powered by a 572kW (707hp) ‘Hellcat’ supercharged 6.2-litre V8, the torque output of which is 874Nm. Jeep quotes the top speed as 290km/h and the 0-100km/h time as 3.6 seconds. Even though the engine is also available in the Dodger Charger and Challenger, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is the only one of the three to have all-wheel drive.

WL, the fifth generation Grand Cherokee, will use the Giorgio architecture.

WL, which is the internal code for the fifth generation Grand Cherokee, will use FCA’s Giorgio architecture. This new model should have its world premiere at the 2019 New York auto show before going on sale in the fourth quarter of next year. Production will likely be at Belvidere in Illinois, whereas the current GC is made at JNAP (Jefferson North Assembly Plant) in Detroit.

As well as updates of the current model’s V6 petrol and diesel engines, and the petrol V8, FCA’s Hellcat supercharged V8 should be available in a special SRT Track Hawk variant of the 2020 Grand Cherokee.

This Grand Cherokee is yet another example of FCA continuing with its strategy of keeping vehicles in production far longer than is normal for many rivals, and indeed, in contrast to what the former Chrysler Corporation did. The GC was once on a six-year lifecycle but the current model could be more than nine years old when it is replaced.

Meanwhile, another large model, the Grand Commander, will be the brand’s next new vehicle. Larger than the Grand Cherokee, it is to be a seven-seat rival for the Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Teramont and Ford Edge, powered by a 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine. It will be built in China by the GAC-Fiat joint venture and might well be a special model just for that market. The public debut will be at the Beijing motor show in April, with production expected to commence during the fourth quarter.

The Yuntu, a concept at the 2017 Shanghai motor show, was a preview of this big SUV. That vehicle was a six-seater but the production model will offer room for seven.

Unlike the slightly smaller Grand Cherokee, the Grand Commander will be based on a front- and all-wheel drive platform. This is CUSW, which is a logical move given that production will be at the GAC FCA plant in Changsha. This is where the CUSW-based Cherokee for China in manufactured.

The Grand Wagoneer is not expected to become available until late 2019.

The Grand Wagoneer is to be yet another large SUV. The then Chrysler Group revealed plans for this additional model as long ago as the 2011 Detroit auto show. The GW, a revival of a dormant model name from Jeep’s history, had been due for release in 2013 but after many delays is not now expected to become available until late 2019 or early 2020. The latter dates were stated by the head of Jeep, Mike Manley, in March 2017.

This big SUV will effectively be the replacement for the long-discontinued Jeep Commander: the Grand Cherokee is not available with seven seats, while the group’s only big seven-seater SUV in North America is Dodge division’s Durango. There will also be a Jeep Wagoneer: the name was mentioned by Sergio Marchionne during a press conference in January 2016. Production of both models will be in Michigan at FCA US’ Warren Truck Assembly Plant, the company stated in January 2017.

The architecture to be used by these vehicles is said to be a derivative of the same body-on-frame chassis which the new Ram 1500 uses.

How these models fit in with the Grand Commander has not been made clear by Jeep. It is assumed that this vehicle will be only for China. The positioning of the Grand Commander, next Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer should be spelt out as the first of the four is revealed to the media at AutoChina in April.

Pick-up

Project JT, a Wrangler-based pick-up, is under development. In March 2017, Mike Manley told the media that such a vehicle would go into production in late 2019, new for the 2020 model year in North America.

The date has now changed: at the Detroit auto show, Sergio Marchionne stated that the model would be available from mid-2019. FCA’s CEO also said it would have premium pricing and that annual build would be below 100,000 units. Another surprise is that the model name might not now be Scrambler as has been rumoured for some years.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans is available in PLDB from QUBE.

The next OEM to have its current and future passenger vehicles looked at will be Subaru.

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