Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Like jealous Macbethian witches, it is not hard to envision General Motors executives standing over a fire these days and angrily chanting this as they stare at soaring Jeep sales figures.
Month after month, 33 in a row to be exact, Jeep sales have grown – prompting Fiat Chrysler to just about abandon its car-making ability to focus strictly on churning out more and more Jeep/Dodge SUVs.
And with several new models, as well as a re-imagined Jeep Wrangler, looming on the horizon, FCA certainly looks well positioned for the remainder of the decade.
However, word continues to emerge from GMC corners that ‘what’s done, is done’ and it is now seriously planning to reform its sluggish truck division into an SUV-focused Wrangler-killer.
"I do think GMC has got the brand equity and brand character in many respects to give customers a really good alternative to Jeep products," GMC chief Duncan Aldred told Automotive News.
Overall, GMC sold 254,587 vehicles through June of this year, a 3.8 percent decrease over the same period last year. But that figure is somewhat anemic against Jeep's year-to-date volume of 468,131 units – with Wrangler contributing 100,355 of those sales. A Wrangler-fighting GMC would thus be a big part of GM's goal to eventually grow its market share from 3 percent to 5 percent.
"Jeep is on such a growth path. GMC is the obvious one to go after them," Sam Fiorani, vice president of vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions, told Automotive News. "A body-on-frame sport utility is a prime candidate."
While the planning is still in its infancy, the company apparently would build an all-new body-on-frame vehicle utilizing the same chassis at its Canyon and Colorado vehicles. It also plans to borrow design ideas from the defunct Hummer brand, perhaps incorporating elements from the above pictured Hummer-type Rhino XT. It would then market the new machine as an off-road ready SUV. No word if this vehicle would feature the same open air functionality as Wrangler.
The new vehicle is not expected to hit the market until 2020 at the earliest.
FCA has not commented on any new possible competition, but GMC would certainly face an uphill battle against the well-established Wrangler.
For one thing, despite quality concerns, the iconic Jeep vehicle’s large, rabid, and loyal fan base is very protective of the brand, which makes it tough for any newcomer to enter the market.
For another, lower gas prices have made the Wrangler an easier justification for those who have always wanted to own that vehicle. By the time GMC has its vehicle ready to go in 2020, gaining any traction in the off-road segment may be an insurmountable challenge.
But GMC seems willing to try.
So will something wicked this way come for Wrangler?