If you were to consider the operations that FCA has in store for us with the Jeep brand that was reported only a month ago in December, you’d notice there seemed to be no way Jeep would be ready for all the changes that were in the pipeline at the time. Since the discussion in December, it seems like FCA and Jeep are on a forward moving path, but I’m not sure what changed, unless they are simply leveraging against the possible continued success of the Jeep brand and what it will mean going forward.
The discussion not only surrounds the fact that Jeep is poised to bring us a new Wrangler in 2018 that will be an upgraded model but also give us a pickup truck that’s kind of a “about time” model. The brand is also expected to bring us a new Grand Cherokee in 2019 and then the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in 2020. These announcements are all from the recent press release offered at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, but just a month ago they didn’t seem possible.
Why was there so much speculation around the possibility of these changes? First of all, FCA is the only major automaker that is still faced with more debt than cash. Things are so bad that it was rumored last month that the company is planning to spin-off its premium subsidiaries. Its recovery program is six years in the making already and they are working to change this but it takes time. The goal was to be at less than five billion euros in debt by the end of December, but that’s still a hefty debt to carry around and might keep the development teams from being able to actually build new models when the overall company hasn’t gotten back in the black just yet.
One of the most expensive undertakings in the automotive world is the development of new products. Because Alfa Romeo has been all but gone from the US market for several years there has been a push to bring this brand back to its old glory globally. Add to this the fact that the new Ram 1500 has been recently redesigned and the plans that are in store for the Jeep Wrangler and just a month ago it seemed the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer were nothing more than a pipe dream by FCA, but they are charging forward with plans to make both a reality by 2020, which is probably the best time to make it happen.
One of the most important parts of the development of these two models is the build they will carry. As large luxury SUVs that need to have the luster we long for, both of these models need to be developed on the right platform. Originally the plan was to build them on the back of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, but after some thought, that platform isn’t large enough for these two vehicles and thankfully the luxury models from Jeep will be built alongside the Ram pickups which will offer the right platform for the job.
Now that we have some clarity regarding when and what will be brought to the Jeep lineup we can get seriously excited by what FCA has in store for us. Hopefully the addition of new Wrangler models and the luxury names that we love will help to create the positive cash flow that FCA needs to be able to develop new vehicles at a faster rate. Right now the company has rid itself of the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 because of a lack of sales, but they are certainly doubling down on the SUV and truck models.
It’s amazing what a month can do to change the landscape of the brands we know and love. As Jeep marches forward, the development of these new models will be of serious interest to us.