The all new Grand Cherokee is the top ranked Mid-Size SUV in AutoPacific’s 2011 Ideal Vehicle Research. As the class winner, its owners identify few things they would want changed, but there are a few. About 30% would like better visibility and more infotainment technology. About 25% want the Grand Cherokee to be easier to get into and out of. About 25% want it to have more power and more cargo room as well. Grand Cherokee owners most like its ride, seat comfort, exterior size and the styling of the new vehicle. Grand Cherokee handily outpoints the second place Nissan Xterra.
Willow Springs Raceway
At AutoPacific we’ve been doing a lot of EV research. A lot. So it was with a smile that we accepted the Chrysler Group’s offer to come to Willow Springs, north of Lancaster in California’s high desert. No EVs here. No range anxiety discussions. The Chrysler Group hauled a load of journalists and analysts to Willow Springs to remind us that anxiety should remain a small part of the driving experience. Exhilaration is better.
Once we were settled, Ralph Gilles, CEO, SRT Brand and Motorsports, announced that Chrysler has officially elevated its in-house performance division – the Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team – to a separate company brand to build high-performance vehicles for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. The Chrysler public relations team was on hand the let us take a few of the latest SRT vehicles for laps on the famed racetrack. Not a bad day.
Earlier this week Jeep invited us to join them at the base of the snow covered Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Our mission was to test drive the entire 2011 Jeep lineup in their element – on and off-road in the snow. Something you wouldn’t want to attempt in just any vehicle.
For 2011 there is big news! Sergio Marchionne has rattled the Jeep cage and it is definitely beginning to show in their products. All vehicles received attention; the Patriot, Compass, Liberty, Wrangler and of course the all-new Grand Cherokee.
It’s been said that Sergio loathes incentives and believes that they erode profitability and brand equity. So, instead of building vehicles to a particular price-point with the understanding that they would eventually be the least expensive, highest incentivized option for consumers – it was time to draw a line in the sand and build vehicles that people see real value in. Jeep has decided to build vehicles that consumers want to buy based on product attributes not lowest common denominator. Game on!
A few months ago Chrysler invited me to check out their 2011 refreshed Jeeps at the Chrysler Tech Center in Auburn Hills. With the thought of a Dodge Avenger rental car fresh in my head I didn’t have the highest expectations for what Chrysler was getting ready to show me. Let’s be honest, Chrysler had gone through the ringer, lost a lot of engineering talent, had multiple owners, and had the the weakest vehicle line of any major OEM in the US market. Jeep has a strong customer following and a loyal fan base to keep happy. Could Chrysler deliver a Jeep that could impress even with all of these distractions? Keep reading to find out…
The first generation Grand Cherokee was launched in an age of soaring
SUV sales. Its only real competition at the time was the 4-door Ford
Explorer and the 4-door Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy. There were, of
course, several Japanese entries to compete with as well, but the Grand
Cherokee was perceived to be atop the category. In one focus group
AutoPacific held during that time, a participant described the Grand
Cherokee as “the chairman’s Jeep. It’s the one parked outside the
In subsequent years the Grand Cherokee faced more and more good
competition. Its share of segment deteriorated. Its image
deteriorated. Chrysler cost reduced the vehicle and its presence
suffered. Then came Daimler and the merger of equals creating
DaimlerChrysler. Then came Cerberus buying Chrysler from Daimler for a
song, trying to turn it around and failing. Bankruptcy and now Chrysler
is managed by Fiat SpA.
While all this was happening, products kept getting developed. Some were delayed. But the fourth generation Jeep Grand Cherokee development continued. In fact the Jeep development team was also tasked with developing the next generation Mercedes ML 5-passenger SUV. The result is the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. A loose platform companion with the next generation ML and the best Grand Cherokee ever.
“The Jeep Patriot wins AutoPacific’s 2009 Motorist Choice Award for Compact Crossover SUVs. Just the right size for passengers and cargo and with traditional Jeep appearance, the Patriot meets the product needs of its buyers in a financially efficient way. For them, it is the Goldilocks SUV – not too much and not too little – in every respect.” – AutoPacific
“The Patriot has the best-in-segment fuel costs, above-average retained value and low insurance and maintenance costs.” – IntelliChoice
Owner Satisfaction Highlights
• Feeling Safe While Driving
• Safety Features
• Reliable / Dependable
• Lowest Fuel Costs
• Strong Retained Value
• Low Insurance Costs
• Low Maintenance Costs
Awards Show Consumers Enjoy Luxury and Size
(August 11, 2009) — Right brain, left brain; the practical versus the emotional — an age-old dilemma often at the center of decision making when buying a new car or truck. The 2009 Motorist Choice Awards recognize new cars and trucks that give their owners both economic and emotional satisfaction, helping new-car buyers find vehicles that best satisfy all of their personal-transportation needs. The fourth annual Motorist Choice Awards survey, announced today, scores 196 cars, trucks, crossovers and SUVs. With the top overall scores in both owner satisfaction and value, the Lexus LS placed highest of any 2009 model year vehicle.
Large and luxury vehicles dominated this year’s results. The top 34 ranked cars, and 106 of the top 107, are large cars, luxury cars, sport utility vehicles, crossover SUVs or minivans. Only one small car, the BMW 1-Series, scored in the top 100, landing in the 35th slot. Toyota Prius is the next-highest-scoring small car, coming in 107th.
Awards are given for top-scoring vehicles scoring in each of twenty-three segments, as well as for the top-scoring brand. Nine manufacturers earned segment wins, led by Toyota with nine awards (including three for Lexus), followed by General Motors with six (Chevrolet 4, Cadillac 2), Honda with three, and Chrysler with two (Dodge 1, Jeep 1). Audi, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan and Volkswagen took top honors in one segment each.
(And check out our video on YouTube.)
“The Jeep Liberty wins AutoPacific’s 2009 Ideal Vehicle Award for Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicles. Liberty owners also rated the Liberty tops in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research this year. This is an outstanding achievement,” said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, Inc. “Jeep has been in the SUV business longer than most everybody. They know how to design a great Jeep.” Among the Liberty’s leading attributes are:
* Safety features
* Technology level
* Interior lighting
* Wheels and tires
Public Responds Positively to Ford’s Actions, but Some Still Have Reservations
TUSTIN, Calif. (June 17, 2009) — American consumers’ opinions about Ford Motor Company have been positively influenced by the company’s decision not to accept government bailout funds, and by the bankruptcy filings of rivals General Motors and Chrysler. Automotive research and analysis firm AutoPacfic conducted an online survey of more than 900 U.S. consumers regarding their purchase intent and opinions of individual car companies. Highlights include:
* Asian and European manufacturers scored highest when the survey asked “How concerned are you about buying/leasing a vehicle from” a particular maker, with an average of 61% “Not concerned at all.” Ford scored 48%, far ahead of GM’s 15% and Chrysler’s 14%.
The freshest entry in the segment, Jeep Liberty wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award for the Mid-Size Sport Utility segment. The Liberty offers serious off-road capability in a comfortable size and in a familiar shape. It earns class-leading scores in such critical categories as:
• Safety features and feeling safe while driving
• Value for the money, always an important consideration
• Audio system performance
• Driver’s seat comfort
• Ease of entry/egress