Why the Jeep Sedan Is Actually a Very Good Idea
AMC Eagle revival anyone?by Ciprian Florea, on
This year’s April Fools’ Day was packed with interesting and awkward car ideas, including a post by Jeep Middle East about a Jeep sedan. The joke included a rendering of a Chrysler 300 sedan with a Jeep Cherokee front fascia. Although it didn’t look half bad, it looked like a crazy idea coming from an SUV-exclusive manufacturer. But it is completely out of line? I think not, and I’m going to explain why a Jeep sedan could be a brilliant idea.
Why Would Jeep Make a sedan?
Jeep doesn't have to build a traditional sedan
I’m pretty sure most of you are asking yourselves this question right now and you are right to do it. After all, Jeep has only built SUVs and trucks in its 75-year existence (except from the Jeepster in the late 1940s) and that’s not likely to change very soon. It also seems like a weird idea since sedans are losing massive ground to crossovers nowdays. Ford, for instance, decided to discontinue all its sedans in the U.S. in favor of SUVs and most carmakers aren’t developing new nameplates with sedan bodies. Investing money and time in a brand-new sedan is counterproductive if you’re not a luxury automaker.
But here’s the thing: Jeep doesn’t have to build a traditional sedan. And it doesn’t have to develop one from scratch either. Let me explain.
The return of the high-riding sedan
The AMC Eagle is a historically significant car beyond its popularity among AMC and Jeep fan clubs
To get a better idea of what Jeep could do here we need to go all the way back to 1980. Before it was purchased by Chrysler in 1987, Jeep was owned by AMC, also known as the American Motors Corporation. Formed as a merger between Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company, AMC was an attempt to compete with Detroit’s Big Three: Ford, GM, and Chrysler. In 1970, AMC purchased Kaiser-Jeep, the company that was making the CJ, the Wrangler’s iconic predecessor.
As sales of the Jeep brand dropped dramatically following the second energy crisis in 1979, mostly due to their poor fuel efficiency, some AMC engineers came up with an idea to join an AMC Concord sedan body with a four-wheel-drive system from the CJ. The experiment resulted in the birth of the AMC Eagle, a high-riding sedan that was eventually offered in coupe, hatchback, convertible, and wagon body styles as well. It was the first production model to offer the comfort of a passenger car and the all-wheather capability of an SUV under the same roof. Many consider it the car that pioneered the crossover segment.
Although it was discontinued after only eight years on the market, the AMC Eagle is a historically significant car beyond its popularity among AMC and Jeep fan clubs.
Would it make sense?
Jeep's high-riding sedan would benefit greatly from the American brand's cachet
In a market where sedans are losing ground to crossovers, four-doors with three-box designs don’t make much sense, but a high-riding version would. Sure, it would have a limited fanbase, but it wouldn’t be less popular than existing non-premium sedans. And it would actually compete in a very small niche that already exists. In late 2015, Volvo introduced a high-riding version of the S60 sedan. It had a Cross Country badge and it was limited to 500 units. You can no longer buy it in 2019, but that’s also because Volvo just introduced a redesigned S60. The Cross Country sedan could return at some point.
Jeep’s high-riding sedan would benefit greatly from the American brand’s cachet. Jeep has some of the best four-wheel-drive systems on the market and all of its crossovers are highly capable off the beaten path. An SUV with the off-road capability of the Wrangler would be far more appealing than a high-riding Volvo. And Jeep could actually develop two separate versions. A milder chassis with all-weather capability and a more hardcore version for enthusiasts who actually want to venture in the wild on the weekends.
Is it doable?
Jeep can probably fit its AWD systems in just about any FCA car out there
It might seem a bit complicated at first glance since Jeep doesn’t make any sedans, but we need to keep in mind that the SUV brand is owned by FCA, which also owns carmakers like Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat. And these firms have plenty sedans in their lineup, as well as highly versatile platform that can accept many driveline configurations. We can debate for days as to which FCA car would be the most well-suited as a base, but the company has plenty of options. The Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade are car-based SUVs anyway, so Jeep would only need a new body atop this chassis. But it could also develop a larger sedan based on Chrysler 300 or Dodge Charger. With six different vehicles of all shapes and sizes in its lineup, Jeep can probably fit its AWD systems in just about any FCA car out there. It’s doable and it wouldn’t be as expensive as developing a high-riding sedan from scratch.
But it goes against Jeep tradition
The market is so different now that almost all carmakers offer a vehicle that's out of line
So what?! Does it really matter in this day and age when Lamborghini and Maserati are building SUVs and Ferrari is working on an all-electric supercar? Tradition is a thing of the past. The market is so different now that almost all carmakers offer a vehicle that’s out of line. What’s more, Jeep actually made a car back in the day. Launched in 1948 and discontinued after only a couple of years, the Jeepster was Jeep’s attempt to enter the automobile market. Sure, it looked like the original Jeep, but it sat closer to the ground, it has proper doors, chrome trim, and a soft-top that offered solid protection. Even the Jeepster Commando of the mid-1960s, essentially a low-riding crossover, was offered with a hard-top that made it look like hatchback. These two vehicle alone would enable Jeep to twist a story to the point where it validates a sedan. But it doesn’t really need to as tradition is no longer an argument in the 21st century.
Will it happen?
It probably won’t, but I wouldn’t say "never." Today’s car trends go all over the place and you don’t know what automakers might do next. Don’t forget that Lamborghini, Bentley, and Maserati SUVs and Porsche sedans were unheard of a couple of decades ago. Also, no one really gave a chance to electric cars in the early 1990s. And look where we are now: electric cars are taking off and SUVs are all over the place and killing the wagon and the sedan. A Jeep sedan won’t happen anytime soon, but don’t be surprised if you see one in a few years.
Read our full review on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.