Fiat Chrysler is Betting Big on the Jeep Wagoneer
What once looked like something that could have doubled as the Marlboro Man’s weekend ranch cruiser, Fiat Chrysler is bringing the Jeep Grand Wagoneer back into the stable in a bid to try to destabilize the luxury off-roading market (read: Land Rover). But don’t worry; since it still carries the Jeep brand, it should be more than able to hold its own at Moab.
What was once all fake wood paneling and a design that dated back to the early ’60s is slated to be revived after 2019 as an all-new, ultra-luxury SUV for the 21st century. According to Automotive News, Jeep brand head Mike Manley says that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs will return as “upscale vehicles that will push the premium boundaries of the brand.”
Like in decades past, the Grand Wagoneer will remain the upscale version of the model, and will set its sights on SUV royalty — think Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover, and Toyota Land Cruiser territory. The base Wagoneer will still sit in the luxury segment, but it will likely be closer to the current Grand Cherokee — think ’80s-era Cherokee-based Wagoneer versus the classic GW model. Both are likely to share a platform with the next-generation Grand Cherokee.
“The Wagoneer name represents, historically, the pinnacle of premium for the Jeep world,” Manley says. “But in the same way as you may have an Overland and a Summit, you have different trim levels. So you could imagine the use of Wagoneer to denote a really premium vehicle, and Grand Wagoneer takes it to the very next level. If you were to use that as your naming strategy, that’s exactly how I would use the trims.”
But 2019 is still a ways away, and as recalls and some very serious engineering woes continue to plague FCA, now may not seem like the best time to launch an ultra-luxury model. But we feel that the Wagoneers are likely to help the brand, because for all of its missteps, the Wrangler continues to crush, the EcoDiesel engine in the Grand Cherokee is outstanding, and the rambunctious little Renegade is flat-out inexpensive fun.
According to the Automotive News report, CEO Sergio Marchionne has said that the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be built at FCA’s Warren Truck Assembly complex in suburban Detroit. This particular plant has been extremely busy, building trucks around the clock in order to feed a public hunger for pickups that refuses to go away.
This plant is currently home of the popular Ram 1500 pickup, an operation that will likely be moved to a redesigned Sterling Heights Assembly hub up the road for the 2018 model year. That would make Warren the new home of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, which haven’t had one since production ended in 1991.
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