Jeep Grand Wagoneer “Placed on Hold,” Sources Say
At least FCA has not canceled its Range Rover competitor… Yet.by Mark McNabb, on
News about the future Jeep Grand Wagoneer has gone from promising to problem-ridden over the last month. Reports have suggested Jeep is canceling the high-end SUV for good, while others suggest nothing is wrong. Well, word has just surfaced from two different third-party parts suppliers that Jeep in putting the Grand Wagoneer project on hold.
The news comes from Larry Vellequette, a reporter with Automotive News whose dedicated beat for the last decade has been Chrysler and now FCA. He reports the luxo-Jeep isn’t officially dead, but it isn’t alive and well. The major problem, according to Vellequette, is FCA’s very limited cash reserves. FCA is currently funding a company-wide game of musical chairs and retooling with its assembly plants. Vehicles are being moved around, plans are getting refurbished, and this is eating into cash reserves.
Also a major factor is the limited size of vehicle that’s capable of being produced at FCA’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit. It currently builds the Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, but anything larger, say like a three-row Range Rover competitor, simply wouldn’t fit down the assembly line.
Vellequette makes an interesting observation though. Why retool Jefferson at great expense for a low-volume SUV rather than build a high-volume, body-on-frame SUV that competes with the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition? Why not base that SUV on the upcoming refreshed Ram 1500? It’s certainly an idea worth exploring.
Ram has never made a three-row SUV based on its pickup despite GM and Ford having outstand success with the concept. Should Jeep choose to pursue this, the Grand Wagoneer name would likely drop the “Grand” portion, recalling the more utilitarian Jeep Wagoneer of 1974 through 1983.
Should Jeep go this route, it could even create a heavy-duty version, competing where the Suburban 2500 and Ford Excursion once did. What’s more, it could even create a Rubicon or Trailhawk version based on the Ram 2500 Power Wagon. Best of all, FCA would need far less cash to pull this off. The Ram’s Warren Truck Assembly Plant could accommodate the 1500-series Wagoneer, while FCA’s Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Mexico could accommodate the heavy-duty and Power Wagon versions.
Of course, this is pure speculation on our part based on speculation by Vellequette. One thing is for sure though – Jeep will not be getting its Grand Wagoneer by 2018 or 2019.
Continue reading for more information.
Why It Matters
Fiat Chrysler’s American brands are reinventing themselves right now, moving from producing cars, trucks, and SUVs, to concentrating primarily on the latter two. Jeep will soon debut the Wrangler and Wrangler pickup, Ram is working on its next-generation of pickup, and Dodge is undoubtedly working on updates for the popular Durango, at which time Jeep will update its Grand Cherokee. Across the office, Chrysler and Dodge have killed off the 200 and Dart compact sedan, and production of its other sedans is moving outside the U.S.
This new focus on trucks and SUVs is in response to consumers’ shift in taste combined with low fuel prices. High-riding vehicles are all the rage and automakers are raking in the profits. FCA desperately wants a share of the feast.
As for basing the Jeep Wagoneer on the Ram platform, the idea is sound. Both GM and Ford have had great success with their full-size, body-on-frame SUVs. Plus, this gives Jeep access to an established platform already in development, saving costs and cutting engineering time.
Despite the suspicion of Jeep dropping the “Grand” portion of the vehicle name, the Ram-based SUV could be very high-end. Ram already offers an air suspension system, it already rides on a live rear axle with a multi-link coil spring suspension, and it already has a gaggle of powerful engines in its repertoire. As for the heavy duty version, imagine a Cummins-powered Jeep Wagoneer with solid axles, a hardy 4WD system, and the towing capacity of 15,000 pounds. Talk about a winner.
Only time will tell what direct FCA will pursue the Grand Wagoneer project. It could go at least three ways: a unibody platform, a Ram-based platform, or complete cancelation. Hopefully it won’t be the latter.
Read our full review on the Jeep Grand Wagoneer here.
Source: Automotive News