The original luxury SUV is back. Maybe.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has announced his plans to bring a cherished and celebrated American nameplate back to life: The Jeep Grand Wagoneer. According to Automotive News, we could see the new 7-seater in two years. It will be an upscale vehicle built on the same platform as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango and could appear in January 2013, hopefully as a production model.
Before the naysayers pipe in and say, “Hey, didn’t Chrysler already try a 7-seater, and fail, with the Jeep Commander?”
Of course that answer is yes. But the Grand Wagoneer has the potential to be very, very different.
The Commander was simply an ill-fitted box set onto the existing Grand Cherokee platform. It didn’t offer anything new or exciting to the SUV market. Considering Chrysler currently has the new Dodge Durango, I would expect the Grand Wagoneer to be a step above in luxury, even competing with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Audi Q7 and Cadillac Escalade.
Chrysler has a challenge on its hands, though, by making this announcement. The original Wagoneer lived for 25-ish years mostly unchanged, a testament to its mass appeal across generations. Chrysler now has a chance to build the next version that will be an object of affection for the next two generations.
What Chrysler cannot do is create another forgettable people mover like the Commander. The Wagoneer needs to have its own retro-but-modern personality and a character that sets it apart from its Pentastar stablemates. With Chrysler’s access to Italian designers and inspiration from such a game-changing original, I think there is a real potential to create something truly memorable.
If you’re skeptical that such a vehicle can be conceived, designed and produced in just two years, check out what Marchionne told Automotive News about the Commander:
That car was unfit for human consumption. We sold some. But I don’t know why people bought them.
Here’s hoping Chrysler hits one out of the park with the Grand Wagoneer! Do you think it will succeed?