Kelley Blue Book recently sat down with Mike Manley, head of Jeep's brand for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, to give us a little more clarity on when we can expect the Jeep Pickup and Wagoneer - as well as the role alternative power may play in the brand's future.
Q. What can you tell about a Wrangler pickup?
A. We have confirmed we will have a pickup as a follow on to the next generation Wrangler, which will be late 2017 for the Wrangler. We haven’t said exactly when [the pickup will bow], but it will be relatively soon after the launch. We are being very quiet in terms of configuration. We will tease it closer to launch. This product is so looked forward to and we’ve taken quite a lot of feedback from our customers really using Moab as that sort of live lab. We’ve taken a 2-door and now a 4-door (pickup concepts) there. We gather the feedback from there.
Q. How about the return of the Grand Wagoneer?
A. It’s still heavily in development at the moment. It’s due around 2019, when we mentioned in our plans that it will be there. There’s a longer development cycle for this vehicle, which was always intended. It is going to sit premium to Grand Cherokee, so slightly longer time has been given to our interior guys and engineers to make sure that they get it right. At this moment, I am pleased where it is. And before you know, it will be here.
Q. How has the Renegade launch gone? Any surprises?
A. It’s been strong, richer on Trailhawk than I thought—five percentage points higher. What I’ve learned with Cherokee and with the Renegade, people like the styling of Trailhawk. You’ll see a similar treatment on Grand Cherokee. It stands out not just from its capability, but also it has unique styling. People have really liked that on Renegade. We are pleased with its segment performance in all markets, whether in its in Brazil, or here. It is a tremendous help to Europe’s great result last year. The big test is coming this April in China.
Q. What sort of buyers are you seeing?
A. We have an interesting demographic. If I use the average demographic it probably doesn’t tell the true story. If you take an average of the Compass/Patriot, for example, you get an average of 51 percent male, 53 years old, college educated. Look beneath the number you see we appeal to a life cycle thing. We appeal to younger people and then later we get empty nesters. With Renegade we see a lot of first time buyers, and because of the size and accommodations, we also get an older demographic. The average is younger, it’s 3 years younger than our demographic, but it doesn’t tell the true story. The thing that I Iove is that people buy the Jeep brand. In their mind they like having a Jeep. Once they buy into the concept of buying a Jeep, then they decide about the vehicle. So we do see people moving down from Grand Cherokee to Cherokee, depending on their needs. What they don’t want to compromise is they like the fact that they have that stance, that command of the road seating, the utility and extra space. That is why we are seeing migration into the utility vehicle segment from passenger cars.
Q. What role will alternative powerplants play in Jeep’s future?
A. It is inevitable you will see electrification in Jeep as well. It is absolutely inevitable particularly as we get out further. Electrification works well with Jeep. FCA as a group has been smart as one family in this environment about choosing where to provide this technology. You see in the [Pacifica] minivan we will have it. You will see progressive use of electrification in one form or fashion including Jeep brand. Frankly we need it. The market will fully expect it. So we need to be there, we need to be competitive. You will see it over time in existing product, using different levels of electrification because it will be appropriate. There are also other opportunities to look at it in unique ways [with unique products].