Jeep and the 2016 NYIAS: from WK2 to JL and everything in-between
Let me be clear from the start: I love Jeep. I love that they have heritage built-in. I love that the names all have historical relevance. I love that the vehicles are so off-road capable. I love that there are Easter Eggs hidden in each new model, and I love that the vehicles themselves ooze encouragement for outdoor activities. But what I don’t love is the ensuing letdown following an event at which you had hoped to see the unveiling of an important and exciting future product, with the mention of such entirely absent.
Specifically, I’m referring to the rumors of the so-called Trackhawk Grand Cherokee. I’m also referring to the upcoming “JL” Wrangler and the pickup on which it’s based, and how if there was likely an event at which this could have debuted it was the 2016 New York International Auto Show. Yet it simply didn’t happen.
This is going to sound very “dad” of me (which is weird, since I don’t have kids), but it has to be said: hey, Jeep—I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
In the past Jeep has used the NYIAS to showcase its new products, but this year the company was strangely quiet. They released the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, an update of a trim sold on the GC in the past that is also currently available on other models, but the vehicles so many of us had hoped to see—the Grand Cherokee Hellcat/Trackhawk/whatever-it’s-going-to-be-called, the next generation of Wrangler (rumored to be designated JL), and the long-hoped-for Jeep pickup—were not only eerily absent, but not even so much as teased. I don’t doubt the time for teasers will come, as it does for nearly every new model in the social media age, but instead the Jeep booth was filled with purple “special edition” Wranglers (an oxymoron in itself; how many special editions can there be?), Trailhawks galore, the 75th Anniversary Edition lineup, and even the should-have-been-dead-five-years-ago Compass and Patriot. It all seemed a bit weak. Or was it…conspicuous? Oh, right, there was also the new Grand Cherokee Summit, but that’s of no use to us here.
I’m guessing one of the reasons for the quiet showing is the niche event which Jeep itself effectively runs: the Moab Easter Jeep Safari. For the last number of years Jeep has been bringing wild concepts out to the Utah trails at what is one of the biggest off-road meetups of the year. This is where the company slings “aftermarket” MOPAR products and shows off rigs that they’ll never build and, more unfortunately, we’ll never be able to buy (main points of sadness: Mighty FC, Nukizer, J-12, Crew Chief 715, etc). We got the JK-8 Independence a few years back, but…meh
Nothing exciting about giving a dealership upwards of $6k on top of the price of the vehicle itself. This year’s forbidden fruit consisted of a Hellcat-powered Wrangler, a Renegade-turned-diesel-pickup inappropriately named “Comanche”, the Commander Renegade (a lightly modified Renegade Trailhawk), and the ever-present but never-to-be-produced one-off builds. It’s all good fun, but it fails to explain why Jeep didn’t have a big reveal for New York. Rather, this year the Moab Easter Jeep Safari seems to have acted as a distraction in hopes of people forgetting there’s the promise of new production vehicles on the horizon. Jeep was able to justify dumping just a bit of money into making people drool at Moab rather than investing a ton of money into rushing along the products that will hit the showroom floor later just to show them in New York.
Can FCA’s struggles and related money constraints explain Jeep’s quiet NYIAS presence? I’m not an insider, but there doesn’t seem to be full-blown happiness within FCA at the moment. Rumors of the 200 and Dart’s death were strong just before the show and if preparation for the unveiling of a new model takes months (years, even) to prepare, internal battles could easily have sidelined/derailed or put the brakes on a would-be release.
A few other semi-related theories could be that FCA is pushing back its new product timing, or maybe the products just aren’t “there” yet. Conversely, the JK Wrangler is still selling unbelievably well (over a million units in the last decade), helping the company continue to set sales records. So …if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? No need to show new products when the existing options are still doing so well. Perhaps Jeep is waiting for sales to drop to pull out their tricks (JL/GC update) to try and put the kibosh on any downward trends. 2018 seems reasonable as a first model year for the JL, coinciding with the estimated timing for the WK2 Grand Cherokee refresh, but for now with WK2 sales still as incredibly strong as they are …here we go again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Could it be that simple for Jeep right now?
As for the “biggest” new product shown this year, the Trailhawk GC, I doubt it took that much [relative] effort to throw together. They already had a THGC a couple years back, albeit with less equipment, but dumping the current slew of Trailhawk gear onto a platform that’s existed for years wouldn’t be enough to consume all of Jeep’s resources (or would it?). It’s undoubtedly much more of an undertaking than I’m giving them credit for, but it’s still nowhere near as financially or resourcefully exhausting as is designing a whole new vehicle ground-up. Maybe the Trailhawk is just serving as a place-holder to keep interest in the brand high while the future vehicles are being finalized, or, with the WK2 GC due to be replaced/refreshed in the next few years, maybe the company is waiting to release the Hellcat-powered version as the “swan song” in celebration of the most award-winning SUV ever?
And as per the JL pickup, swirlings in the Jeep community are saying it could have multiple configurations, both cab (single/extended/crew) and bed (short/long), on top of the choices of two engines (gas/diesel), two transmissions (6-speed manual/9-speed auto), and the typical range of trims (Sport, X, Sahara, Rubicon, etc). Are they giving themselves too much to do? Taken on more than they can chew? I’d love to see the pickup named Gladiator offered with an available Rubicon trim. Let’s then find a diesel motor (sourced from VM Motori?) under the hood and have it backed up by a manual transmission or that lovely ZF 8-speed. Also, can it please start around $35k?
This is a lot to ask for but it’s something I’ve been dreaming of for so long and that would suit my needs so perfectly that I’d happily plunk my own money on one right away. And by right away, of course, I mean after the first model-year quirks are sorted out.
Back to the NYIAS though with one last theory: maybe the NY stage just isn’t a big enough media outlet for vehicles of such a high level of importance? It’s still one of the biggest auto shows, but compared to the NAIAS in Detroit and even the Moab Easter Jeep Safari, where Jeep has the field all to itself, maybe the 2016 NYIAS was just the wrong place and wrong time for what we had hoped to see. Whatever it may be, the [re-]release of a legendary pickup and the introduction of a new generation of perhaps the most iconic American vehicle of them all is a massive task, from marketing research to the design and engineering itself and everything in-between, and Jeep has a lot to get right amidst pressure from FCA as well as from the general public.
Jeep hasn’t exactly been known for its high “quality,” so it would be nice if the time is being used to work out all the possible kinks. Especially those inevitable first model-year hiccups or anything involving the potential for the use of the word “recall”. It would be easier if they ditched that horrid 9-speed. Still, Jeep tends to stay away from the concepts at major auto shows (as of the last few years at least), which means that when the vehicles debut they should be good-to-go pending any last-minute transmission reflashes or diesel certifications.
But what of the Patriot and Compass? It’s a sorry sight to see the once-smallest Jeeps still being displayed at an auto show, sitting there awkwardly as the company tries to move unsold units, and you almost feel bad for them. In a vacuum they might be “alright,” somewhat practical, and even decent looking (the Patriot at least) but with the today’s super-modern CUVs controlling the competitive space, the Compass/Patriot are pretty pathetic excuses for entries in said segment.
Insult to injury comes in the form of the Renegade occupying the same-ish locale, and supposedly Jeep has yet another small CUV on its way to fill the void that will be left by both the Patriot and Compass. Their time left on the auto show circuit is likely short. Add it to the list of disappointment for the 2016 NYIAS.
Back to the JL Wrangler, of which I’ve become largely obsessed and need to touch on just a bit more. The nameplate has progressed in roughly ten-year cycles (YJ 1986-1995; TJ 1996-2006; JK 2006-present), so the latest generation is just about ready for replacement. I read something the other day that said the JL is slated to debut later this year, and that was on the internet so it must be true. Sarcasm aside, maybe I had unrealistic expectations to see it at the NYIAS or maybe I’m desperate to lay eyes on a vehicle that has a very good chance of taking my money. All I know is that when the dust settled on the 2016 NYIAS it was me, a Trailhawk Grand Cherokee, the Compass/Patriot duo, and a longing for the immediate future of Jeep products.
Please, Jeep—make the wait worth it. As a lifetime super-fan I’m overdue to purchase my first Jeep vehicle and I’m sure your accountants would prefer it to be new, not a Craiglist-sourced XJ. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the day the public can lay eyes on the JL, and nearly as much so for the Hellcat Grand Cherokee. I’m reluctant to use the phrase “no pressure,” but let’s be real: there’s a ton of it. I’m hoping for, and expecting, the best—as are all of the other die-hard Jeep fans out there.
Dear Jeep: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed
32 responses to “Dear Jeep: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”
I’m just getting over the fact that Compass and Patriot are still for sale. It makes more wonder how big of a rebate they must be offering on it. Of course my own Dodge hasn’t really made me want to go back to Chrysler because of their quality issues.Loading…
Same here…my Dodge product has been a quality nightmare, and my the 2014 Grand Cherokee my parents have has been even worseLoading…
The ComPatriot has often seemed like a car they forgot they were making, even though they still haul them around to shows, maybe they also forgot they’re in the trailer.Loading…
Much as Apple is no longer (and hasn’t been for some time) a computer company, Jeep is no longer a manufacturer of 4WD vehicles. They’re a lifestyle brand.
The problem with brands is that brands stand for nothing. They’re a quick way to associate X with Y in the consumer’s mind – and note the specific use of the word consumer, not customer – but that’s it. The three brass balls hung outside of a pawn shop are an illustrative example of this.
With respect to Jeep, the brand: if one of the vehicles in the lineup (JK Wrangler) can be seen in a video on either the Rubicon Trail or at Moab doing the sorts of things most of the consumers Jeep would like to attract to their brand will never do with their vehicles, then it’s mission accomplished for FCA. They’ll continue to sell more units, the brand will prop up the other brands (for the time being), and everyone’s happy.
Except for the people (and, making my biases clear: I’m including myself in that group) who were their customers.
These were the people who were buying the vehicles that Jeep was selling because they had capabilities that we were specifically looking for. Granted, that doesn’t mean that everyone who was buying them was doing so to take them rockcrawling – but it does mean that the customer who understood the demands of their needs and could find a vehicle on a Jeep dealer’s lot to fulfill those needs has been left largely-ignored over the last decade.
The lineup is schizophrenic: the Grand Cherokee tries to cover every base between reasonably-priced large SUV and near-Range Rover competitor; the Cherokee is a Jeep that tows and off-roads like an Alfa-Romeo; the Renegade should be the true XJ replacement except that it’s really going up against the Subaru Forester in terms of capabilities (though it does do better in the dirt, I’ll admit); the Compass and Patriot are still hanging around for no very good reason that I can discern; and the Wrangler is there as the ‘real Jeep’, perhaps to give some credibility to the other models in the range by association, but mainly as the milkable cash cow that consumers most identify with the brand.
Jeep can’t really be faulted for squeezing all the blood from that particular stone; I would do the same in their position. But I’d like to be able to walk onto one of their lots and drive out in a vehicle that does what I want it to as opposed to one that’s driven while wearing the matching ball cap.Loading…
I see what you’re getting at…it applies perfectly to Jeep. They once made vehicles that you didn’t really buy unless you needed them for their capability (or their fun-factor), and now everything they build is basically interchangeable with what should be a more “mainstream” product from another less-focused manufacturer.
It’s been working well for them. They’ve sold a sh!tton of vehicles recently and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. I hope they do well, but it pains me to see them sell more washed out products rather than what makes the die-hards happy.
As for the Grand Cherokee having too broad of a range, that supposedly will be dealt with in the coming months with the (re)introduction of the Grand Wagoneer, a proper 7-seat SUV designed entirely to compete with the Range Rover. The rest of the lineup leaves the Wrangler as the sole “real Jeep,” but at least each model does have a designated off-road trim (Rubicon/Trailhawk), aside from the nearly-dead Compass/Patriot. And of course the Wrangler is the cash cow, but primarily in Unlimited form. They sell so many of those it hurts my mind to think about.
Ultimately selling cars/trucks/SUVs is a business, and FCA is doing what they can to get the most out of Jeep. I’m right with you though; they’re “Jeeps,” but aside from the Wrangler they just aren’t “doing it” for me the way Jeeps should.Loading…
Yep, that pretty much nails where I’m coming from. However, there is one thing you mentioned that I’d like to expand on:
“[Jeep] once made vehicles that you didn’t really buy unless you needed
them for their capability (or their fun-factor), and now everything they
build is basically interchangeable with what should be a more
“mainstream” product from another less-focused manufacturer.”
While I do agree with this as it stands, I’d like to clarify that I am not opposed to Jeep moving into new market segments. As an example of this: I was one of the small segment of Jeep owners who, at the launch of the Patriot and Compass, were in favour of Jeep fielding a competitor to vehicles in a class that Subaru, Toyota, and Honda had all to themselves.
However, my support comes with a caveat, and that caveat is that the vehicles being produced have to actually be capable. That doesn’t mean that I expect a vehicle pitched at the RAV4 or CR-V to run the Rubicon solo, but that they need to be able to do things that the competition simply can’t when the going gets rough.
The nearest thing to a vehicle that I would actually want to buy that I’ve seen come out of Jeep in a long time is the Comanche concept from this year’s Easter Jeep Safari. It fits my needs, much like the XJ always has. It’s just a shame that there are no confirmed plans to build it, nor does there appear to be anything on the horizon with XJ-alike capability and sizing.Loading…
Yeah, I get what you mean. They’ve done well on that front though, aside from the Compass/Patriot. The Renegade is pretty capable in Trailhawk trim, as is the Cherokee…more so than any of the direct competition at least.
I’m torn on the Comanche concept. I want to love it, but it’s a bit too small and a bit too awkward and a lot too much FWD-based for it to warrant my love. The JL-based pickup should be fantastic, albeit at a higher price point.
I’d guess it’s pretty unlikely we see anything akin to an XJ in the near future, if ever at all. Which is really too bad. The problem is that inexpensive, honest, modification-friendly 4x4s don’t sell to the masses the way a more fuel efficient, “cute,” tech-heavy, competitively priced vehicle does, a la Renegade. Too bad, because I think a short run of an XJ-esque vehicle would sell pretty well and give back the company something it’s losing.Loading…
Looks like we’re largely in agreement, so I’m just going to stick with where I’m falling through the cracks with the current range:
– Compass / Patriot: uh, no. Just no. I’ve driven them, and… No.
– Renegade: haven’t had it in the dirt, but liked the size. Trailhawk drove OK on pavement. Outward visibility was not as good as I would have liked, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it terrible.
– Cherokee: Also haven’t had it in the dirt, but did not like it on pavement. Outward visibility was unacceptable in the rear three-quarters and over the edge of the hood. Tow capacity was 1500lbs. less than an XJ with the AW4 auto (which is actually 1500lbs. more than a manual XJ, but I’d be skipping those anyway for the tow capacity requirement). Nice interior.
– Grand Cherokee: haven’t driven one in about 4 years, so memory is weak. Thought it was a nice luxury SUV, but had traded some capability for refinement. Not really considering one anyway, so more or less off my radar.
– Wrangler: 2-door is too small (no cargo area without ditching the back seat), 4-door is too long (trying to turn one around on the trail then having to reverse over a quarter-mile to get to where I could did not endear me). Also wider than I’d like but definitely capable. A 2-door extended-wheelbase version similar to the TJ Unlimited / CJ-8 / CJ-6 might tempt me, but diesel’s a requirement.
– Wrangler truck: reserving judgement for when it arrives, but I suspect the size issues will kill it for me. We’ll see. Also: diesel.
– Comanche concept is a potential contender only if it comes in exactly the spec seen at EJS, including the (spoiler alert) diesel. Hardtop would likely be preferred. For what I need in a daily-use truck, it’s fine; I’ve had three Brats and a couple of Meharis, so can work with the bed length.
And yeah… Agreed that we’ll never see another XJ-alike model again. It’s just not going to happen. Problem is, the last XJ rolled off the lines 15 years ago with the last MJ Comanche having been built nine years before that, so good ones are thin on the ground. This means that going either newer or older (with all of the tradeoffs that incurs either way) is pretty much the only option. I just want to be able to find something that fits my needs, more so if I’m going to tie myself into payments on it for any length of time.Loading…
I’ll weigh in too:
-Compass/Patriot: the Patriot wasn’t horrible, but it’s good that they’re on their way out. Patriot will undoubtedly be a good deal on the used market though, as crappy as it is…prices will plummet.
-Renegade: size is good, as you said, and feels like it has that Jeep “compromise” in it (suffers some regards – MPG etc. – due to styling and capability)
Cherokee: had a Trailhawk for a few days and liked it. It was pretty numb all-around, but looked good and drove well enough if you don’t need any excitement out of it. Not thrilling, but not bad. There were a few quirks I personally can’t get over that would prevent me from buying it, though…FWD being the deal-breaker.
-Grand Cherokee: I’ve spent extensive time in my parents’ 2014 V8 Limited and have mixed feelings. The interior is nice, it looks good, and has done everything we’ve asked of it. Definitely refined, but is showing its age already. Not exactly a “quality” vehicle, with continuous recalls, trans/software reflashes, fuel pump replaced under warranty, etc. Still, I like it.
-Wrangler: 100% agreed about the need for an LJ-esque Wrangler. The 2-door is just enough space to make it work as an only vehicle, and the 4-door is a bit much for most people who buy a Wrangler for its off-road abilities (size being included in this). Diesel should be on the way…
-Pickup / Wrangler truck: if it’s based on the JL there’s a good chance I’ll buy one. Based on the Renegade, no thank you. Re: diesel – yes!
-Comanche concept: the only thing I liked about it was the idea of it, and the diesel. Hopefully the motor makes its way into the Renegade.Loading…
Again, I have to agree with you on this, and I suspect that most of the differences of opinion we have come down to the intended use case for the vehicle(s) in question. That said, you’re far from the first person I’ve heard describe the WK2 as not exactly being a paragon of reliability, and I’d be interested to see if any of the issues the Jeeps have had track with issues on its ML platform-mate.
I will add this: if Jeep follows through on the JK pickup being available in diesel, it can be equipped off the showroom floor with front and rear lockers, and both the wheelbase and overall length fall somewhere between a TJL and JKU… I could be tempted. But it would have to be an all-or-nothing, no-compromise deal for that to happen, and I’m still leaning towards the Comanche as being closer to what I really want.
Then again, not having the Comanche around would prevent some poaching of the JK pickup’s sales, and that alone may be enough to keep the Comanche relegated to simply being a driveable design exercise.Loading…
Didn’t someone write a similar article with Mini/Audi/BMW/Mercedes in question?
If they didn’t. They should.
Our company used to budget for a very large trade show. We got lots of eyeballs, but the show was expensive for exhibitors, and so broad that a lot of the attendees worked in segments that would never need our services.
We switched the budget to smaller, industry specific trade shows. Much more bang for the buck.
I see that happening with Jeep? Should they make big announcements where they might get overwhelmed by noise from “competition” not really in their market segment, or hold off until they get the spotlight where they shine?
I have a hunch that if we don’t see the new vehicles this year, we’ll see them at the 2017 Moab EJS. Just as you said: spotlight to yourself, or “big fish small pond,” and a better result…Loading…
Speaking of the NYIAS, this popped up in my local online classifieds…
What is a 1965 New York Auto Show sign doing in Edmonton?
I think part of Jeep’s problem is that they have models that cover roughly the same scope of vehicles they used to have (maybe a little less of the utilitarian stuff, but those buyer have mostly moved onto fullsize pickups), that it somehow seems disappointing when they expand the lineup to go more mainstream. The Wrangler’s about the same as it’s ever been, while the Unlimited is close enough to an XJ with a removable roof (it’s a little bigger, but not excessively so), and the Grand Cherokee is just like the old Grand Wagoneer, in that it’s the Mopar most likely to be found in the garage of someone very wealthy. I’ve also seen plenty of white Patriots with railroad or telecom logos on the side, which is endearing in its own way.
The Renegade and Cherokee may not exactly be traditional Jeeps, but they are the Jeepiest crossovers.
Eh, the JKU is a decent amount bigger. 168″ vs 184″ long, 69″ vs 74″ wide, height both in the 69-72″ range but that’s arbitrary because of the inevitable lift kits. Still, I get your point. Jeep still does Jeep things, just not naturally the way they used to be.Loading…
Huh,for some reason it got in my head that the JKU was about 4.4m (173″) long. I suppose I can retcon it to the JKU’s size increase over the XJ is comparable to the ZJ to WK2, or the XJ to the current Cherokee, but really I was a little wrong.Loading…
One thing to keep in mind – FCA has been making an effort to not unveil new product any earlier than about 6 months before the cars are actually at dealers and available to buy.
I’m looking forward to the Jeep pickup (and also the rumored return of the Ford Ranger) as my ’05 Dakota is starting to show its age. [Current issues: leaks at the steering rack, engine front main seal, transmission output speed sensor; sticking left-front brake caliper.]
I have to completely agree. I was telling friends that I would be there at the Jeep event, expecting to see a Wrangler pickup and the replacement of the Patriot/Compass (which I now understand will be unveiled in Brazil and/or LA this fall). I am a lucky bastard to get an accidental press pass to the NYIAS each year. This year, Jeep let us down after two solid years.
Good stuff! That’s a good accident…Loading…
I think it’s not the NYIAS, it’s the FCA issues you identified.
Plus the existing models still selling ok so they are happy to stretch their runs. I think FCA seems to be putting their eggs in the wrong baskets and if they don’t get their act together the clock might be ticking. Surely Sergio isn’t banking on a merger (takeover) from a Chinese automaker that wants to get a jump-start in Western markets?
With the rumoured demise of their small US cars maybe Marchionne is readying us for a company called FJA instead of FCA.Loading…
I like the sound of that but not the connotations that would come with it…Loading…
Now at your FJA dealer: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9c/Fiat_%22Campagnola%22_attempted_murder_of_Pope_John_Paul_II.jpg/1024px-Fiat_%22Campagnola%22_attempted_murder_of_Pope_John_Paul_II.jpg By Livioandronico2013 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41223362Loading…
Can’t be an FCA product; I would actually buy that.Loading…
Correct, it’s pre-Marchionne: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_Campagnola
Other options at your FJA dealer might be an Alfa Romeo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfa_Romeo_Matta#/media/File:Alfa-Romeo-1900M_mod.jpg By Lennart Coopmans – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Alfa-Romeo-1900M.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2591538
or an Iveco: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Massif_Pickup_klein.JPG By Landshamer – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5966225Loading…
Totally understood, and funnily enough the Alfa 1900M was floating around in the back of my head when I was griping about the current Jeep lineup under the heading of ‘things I would actually buy if FCA offered them’.
Stangely enough, the Iveco Massif / various related Santana models have never quite done it for me. Not bad vehicles by any stretch of the imagination, but for some indistinct reason I’m just not drawn to them.Loading…
Yes, the Santana is a slightly modified Land Rover and I’m not sure it is any better, so why not go with the original if that’s what you like (other than the WTF factor of showing up at the local Cars & Coffee with an Iveco or Santana).Loading…
My personal goal is to import a 505 Dangel wagon next year. That should take care of rather a lot of WTF factor.Loading…
The Compass/Patriot are actually decent platforms now (for the record I am not an apologist for these two). What I mean, is that FCA finally added a proper 6 speed automatic (sourced from Hyundai, I believe) that changes the dynamics of the car (much better than the horrid CVT). For an inexpensive CUV with probably a lot of cash on the hood, the Patriot/Compass is perfectly acceptable. They are definitely not beast of breed in this class, but a slightly used one ( with the 6speed auto/2.4/AWD) is an downright bargain. I recently rented one for a week and came away mildly impressed by the value.
For the record, the Patriot is still outselling the Renegade. This may be due to the price point and some teething problems with the Renegade. Considering that this platform is almost 10 years old, hopefully FCA has ironed out the kinks.
Oh I absolutely agree, the Patriot is a hell of a deal when it comes to the used market. I do actually like it, though can’t be fully on board with the Compass seeing as the Patriot is basically the same, just better looking (more XJ-esque). It’s just too bad it took them so long to get it to where it is, since it’s been about a decade, and there’s new models on the horizon…Loading…