Did Anybody At Chrysler Ever Think About This?
By the middle of 2007, Chrysler-Jeep showrooms will be populated by a befuddling number of quite traditional and Post-Modern SUVs (The Scribe refuses to use that vile “crosso___” term). While currently Chrysler-Jeep dealers have only the Wrangler, Liberty, Grand Cherokee and recently added Commander to worry about, their portfolio of SUVs will nearly double over the next eighteen months or so.
Jeep Enters Soft-Roader Realm
For the first time in recent history Jeep will offer products that have no more chance of being “Rubicon capable” than an all-wheel-drive PT Cruiser. When the Compass and Patriot models are added to the range, Jeep will have two unit-body, front-drive passenger car platform based 4-door post-modern SUVs to go against the Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson/Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and others. But unlike the Escape, its variants, the Hyundai-Kia twins, the RAV and pretty much every other so-called “crosso___” out there save the CR-V and its soon-to-debut upmarket turbocharged twin the Acura RDX, the Compass and Patriot won’t be offered with anything other than an I4 powerplant under their hoods. So Jeep will have two entries off a common platform, each with common engines, common transmissions dressed in specific sheetmetal jockeying against each other for commercial time, and advertising pages and marketing dollars.
They will also be competing against each other on the showroom floor in spite of Chrysler’s best intentions and strategic positioning.
Compass and Patriot Vie for Launch Attention With New Wrangler
About the same time as the Compass and Patriot’s debut, an all-new Jeep Wrangler will appear. Unlike the current version of the prototypical Jeep which is offered in soft-top and hard-top 2-door forms, the next Wrangler will add 4-door versions. Up from the fleshed-out Wrangler will sit the Liberty. With the I4 variant quietly purged from the range early in the model’s 2005 MY run (likely to make room for the Compass/Patriot). It is expected that the Liberty’s price ladder will overlap those of the Compass, Patriot and Wrangler.
A clear step in size and image, if not price, above the Liberty sit the 5-seat Grand Cherokee and new-for-2006MY 7-seat Commander. While cannibalization between the Liberty and either larger Jeep is minimal, the two range-topping entries are already scrapping over some of the same buyers.
Chrysler Aspen SUV Adds to Chrysler-Jeep SUV Proliferation
Into this miasma of overlapping products Chrysler-Jeep dealers will also have to contend with yet another SUV, the Chrysler Aspen. Essentially a Dodge Durango with a 300-inspired face, the Aspen will land smack-dab in the upper third of the Grand Cherokee/Commander price ladder. Admitted, the Aspen’s Chrysler nameplate, larger size and separate frame construction will help give it some useable clear space in market to distance it the Jeeps, but the Chrysler and Grand Cherokee/Commander share both standard and optional Hemi V8 engines. And in the face of spotty sales training, when customers looking for any of the trio saunter in to the local Chrysler-Jeep showroom, they better know what they want.
From here, it looks as though Chrysler is spending a lot of new product investment engineering manpower and capital to cut its own slice of the SUV pie into smaller pieces rather than devising new product to reclaim some SUV sales.