Jeep’s in Serious Trouble

January 19th, 2010

Alfa Romeo Milano concept

For those who believe the Jeep twins Patriot and Compass were as lowly as a vehicle wearing the seven-slot grille could get, get ready for this:

The blokes over at Autocar say Fiat is preparing to use the same platform used on the Alfa Romeo Milano (concept version pictured above) in an upcoming Jeep model. Does that sound to you a little like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model crashing the party at a redneck wedding? Yeah, me, too.

Autocar says the platform is flexible enough to be used in two lengths and take a four-wheel-drive system, which can be adapted for use in a low-end Jeep. Just what the world needs, huh, another low-end Jeep!

Fiat Panda

Fiat Panda

What I’m having a hard time understanding is how (and why) an up-market Alfa Romeo platform would be used on a low-end Jeep. I think Jeep fans in this country have a lot to be worried about, as Fiat could water down the brand even more than Chrysler did. Want further proof? There may also be plans to bring the Fiat Panda to the States as a Jeep.

Now, the Panda is a perfectly fine urban commuter car, and even outfitted with four-wheel drive, it gets great fuel mileage. But it’s not a Jeep. In fact, a Panda would make the Patriot look like the all-time king of off-roading.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m all for Fiat trying to save Chrysler by delivering European automobiles with the Pentastar’s badge on them. Jeep doesn’t fit into the equation, though. I’d much rather see Jeep specialize in what it does best, off-road adventure, than become a brand that keeps trying to be everything to everyone.

I think Fiat could ruin the Jeep brand by releasing more low-end, small models. Sales might increase, but the brand will become indistinguishable from any others.

Do you think Jeep should offer low-end models with minimal off-road capability? Would you buy one?

-tgriffith

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  1. randy
    | #1

    Jeep has been and should be a serious 4WD utility vehicle. With all the gushing that car manufacturers make about “brand” marketing, you’d think the people at Chrysler would have some concept of what the Jeep brand represents. Remember, that trademark grille came from the Willy’s general purpose (G.P. = Jeep)military vehicle which came standard as a convertible with natural A/C, manual transmission, and such bad seats that they got a disease named after them. Jeep could be a real plus to Chrysler’s lineup if they would create vehicles that are “real” off-roaders instead of the watered-down leather seat creampuff cruisers that they sell now. With Fiat’s expertise in small cars, one thing that comes to mind is an updated, world-class small utility vehicle that will have four-wheelers drooling.

  2. bob
    | #2

    When it seems that just about every new vehicle is bigger than the model it replaces, it might be a good idea if a car company would think smaller for a change. Three years ago we hiked up Mt. Vesuvius. The park rangers at the top of the mountain drove Fiat Pandas, some very well-worn. The rangers had one stretch Land Rover, but it never would have negotiated those rocky trails. It was too big. I could see an ad campaign with a Fiat Panda scaling Vesuvius and a Jeep Panda scaling a similar road in Colorado. When you’re trying to negotiate a narrow mountain trail, size does matter.

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