Jeep has established itself in the field of off-road vehicle performance. But now it is seeking to appeal to a larger market to cover the young enthusiasts. It is determined to capture the needs of both the young and the old using the charisma of all-new Wrangler.
However, in expanding the target market of the automaker, some Jeep purists are expressing their dissent. They think that the brand has gone too soft than expected. “Everybody is worried that Jeep will lose their name,” said Cefali, vice president of the Great Lakes Four Wheel Drive Association and also a Jeep consumer. “I would hate to see Jeep not being on the foreground of off-roading.”
The Jeep Wrangler, the successor to the World War II Jeep, is a mini sport utility vehicle that debuted in 1987. It was first updated in 1997. The next modification happened in 2007 and the latest is for this model year. All-new Jeep Wrangler is equipped with a number of firsts that include the powered windows and door locks. Through the 65-year history of the automaker, this is the very first time that it offers said features.
“It seems like they’re coming out with some things that are not really off-road capable,” added Cefali. Such a sentiment is the reason why it was crucial to talk to Jeep purists when the new Wrangler was merely a sketch, said Jeff Bell, vice president of Jeep, a division of DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group. He added that with competition from newer brands like Hummer and rugged midsize SUVs like the Nissan Xterra, a modern Wrangler had to be built. But the look and features would not offend four-wheel loyalists.
The Jeep Wrangler now comes with fold-down windshield and removable and convertible tops. The exterior of the new Wrangler was designed with its heritage in mind, said Trevor Creed, senior vice president of Chrysler design. Kerry Ann Griffith, a Wrangler fanatic, is happy to know that the powered features do not prevent hardcore Jeep fans from removing doors for summertime ventures. “I don’t care what they do with the Jeep brand so long as they keep the Wrangler traditional,” said Griffith, who goes trail riding at least once a month.
“Once people see the new Wrangler, they’re going to be blown away by what this thing looks like and what it can do,” said Tom LaSorda, Chrysler chief executive officer.
Jeep sales are increased by 11.5 per cent in 2005 and the automaker is eager to further alleviate the sales with its new Compass, the Liberty Diesel and the seven-passenger Commander. “That is a big thumbs up that you can grow Jeep,” Bell said.
The Jeep Compass is a crossover sport utility vehicles unveiled for the 2007 model year at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. The vehicle uses a 172 horsepower 2.4 liter GEMA I4 gasoline engine for the Australian and European market. Now that the vehicle is modified to cater to a wider market, it comes with loads of promises and surprises. The automaker said the vehicle is engineered to offer more fun, utility, freedom, capability, as well as the potential for exceptional fuel economy and interior flexibility without compromising affordability. Though, the automaker entertained significant modifications, tested parts like the EBC brake rotors will be retained in the model.
The automaker expects that the 2007 Jeep Compass is designed with an urban flair to appeal to new buyers in the compact SUV segment projected to double to 568,000 units by 2010 and triple to 814,000 by 2016 from 297,000 units in 2004. The Jeep Compass is designed to lure single women and recently married professionals ranging in age from 20s to 40s. The automaker is also targeting an upscale demographic with a median income of $60,000.
The all-new Jeep Compass features the Jeep brand’s signature seven-slot grille, round headlamps and trapezoidal wheel openings and a new silhouette that features a steeply raked windshield. Side-curtain air bags are standard and it is equipped with the new 172-horsepower 2.4-liter world engine produced by Chrysler, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co.
The Jeep Liberty Diesel, on the other hand, is a compact sport utility vehicle that features 2 new PowerTech engines, a 150 hp 2.4 L I4 and a 210 hp 3.7 L V6, a 2.8 L VM Motori turbodiesel engine became available in the CRD model and four-wheel disc brakes. In 2005, it bagged the title as the best-selling compact sport utility vehicle.
The Jeep Commander, a 7-passenger midsize sport utility vehicle introduced in 2006, features 3 moonroofs, squared-off sides, an upright windshield and very distinct styling. It also offers a base V6 engine with two optional V8s and a new Hemi. In Europe, the vehicle offers a Diesel engine developed by DaimlerChrysler with BlueTec technology.
According to Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with Global Insight Inc., Jeep needs to stay in touch with the changing tastes of buyers, particularly the younger generation. “A lot of the younger consumers in the market are premium-oriented,” Lindland noted. “They look to premium brands so a brand like Hummer is very attractive to them. What Jeep needs to do is become very attractive to that market. They’re trying to expand the appeal of the brand overall without alienating core buyers. They need to get the younger buyers interested in Jeep.”