Jeep sold about 1.4 million SUVs in 2016 and has 2 million Jeeps in its sights. It is going to take until 2020 or so to sell 2 million Jeeps per year.
At an event showcasing the all new 2017 Jeep Compass, Mike Manley, Head of Jeep, detailed the evolution of Jeep production that could achieve global sales objectives of 2 million Jeeps by 2020. The Compass is a crossover SUV positioned above the B-Segment Renegade and below the D-Segment Cherokee. Actually, the Cherokee is more of a C/D Segment vehicle. Cherokee is not really big enough to be a full D-Segment vehicle. At the top of the lineup is the Grand Cherokee which is the heart of Jeep DNA for now.
Jeep’s Capacity Story
There is a dance of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US (FCA) plants that is going to realize substantially more Jeep production. The dance goes like this…
- FCA kills Dodge Dart, Jeep Patriot and the old Jeep Compass produced at their huge 407,000 unit capacity plant in Belvidere, Illinois. Cherokee moves from Toledo, Ohio to Belvidere in 2017. Estimate a maximum production of Cherokee at 250,000 units. This means there is room for another vehicle “not yet announced” at Belvidere, says Manley.
- Toledo adds all new Wrangler off-road SUV during 2017. Wrangler is selling so well it needs more capacity, but not as much as relieved by moving Cherokee to Belvidere. Jeep adds a Wrangler-based pickup to Toledo to fill capacity. This also satisfies demand from dealers and customers for a Jeep pickup.
- The all-new 2017 Jeep Compass is launched with assembly plants in four countries: Mexico, India, Brazil and China. The Mexican plant will supply North America and left hand drive Europe. The Indian plant will satisfy demand from right hand drive countries including the U.K, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Jeep has high expectations for the new Compass as the assembly plant count confirms.
- Jeep is adding a Jeep Wagoneer to the lineup. Manley mentions that this could be a “line of Wagoneers” implying that there could be a Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in Jeep’s future. Wagoneer will be a body-on-frame SUV. It will be based on the next-generation Ram pickup but with independent rear suspension. Manley agrees that “Ford went the right way when they added independent rear suspension to their Expedition to get a great 3rd row seat”. The speculation is that Wagoneer will be added to FCA’s Sterling Heights assembly plant. Sterling Heights is being shifted to Ram pickup production after the Chrysler 200 sedan was killed. The 200 was the only vehicle in Sterling Heights and never achieved anything like FCA’s hoped for volumes.
- That leaves the “mystery vehicle” to take up the additional capacity at Belvidere.
Given all this attention to plants and plant capacity, 2 million Jeeps looks plausible by the next decade.
2017 Jeep Compass in Brief
Based on driving and living with the all-new 2017 Jeep Compass for a short time, the Compass will attract robust sales. Compass styling is very much traditional Jeep with the seven vertical slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches and a strong overall style. Compass has a unique floating roof character that has been adopted from everybody from the Jaguar XJ, Lexus RX SUV, Nissan Murano to the GMC Acadia SUV. The Compass is one of the only vehicles in white where this really looks cool.
The Compass interior is excellent in the mid-range Latitude model, the top-of-the-line Limited and the aggressive Trailhawk model. Front seat comfort is outstanding for a vehicle in this class. The seats are firm without being too stiff. Visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat. Everything is easy to reach and see. Ergonomically, Jeep designers and engineers have done an excellent job.
Compass is powered by the 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. In North America there are three transmissions. 4×2 models get a 6-speed automatic. 4×4 models get a 9-speed automatic. Both 4×2 and 4×4 models are available with manual transmissions. Manual transmission availability is getting rarer and rarer these days. Likely the wide global distribution of the Compass makes the 6-speed manual readily available.
Performance on-road is adequate. A 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder with 230-250 horsepower would always be welcome in a vehicle like the Compass. Off-road, navigating a very technical course, the Compass is very capable. Clearly, retaining Jeep DNA for off-road fun was an important feature in the development of the Compass.