Jeep: Is Everyone Supposed to Understand?

Patrick Hoey

06.19.2007

Where I come from, there is a figurative line between the pavement and the pond, more than just the literal white line painted on the roadway. There are places where your ¼ ton 4WD provides bragging rights in the parking lot of the local soccer field, and another where your Jeep’s ground clearance follows a “the bigger the better”, and “the tougher the better” mindset. Over at Jeep, there is a fusion, a merger of the two that is generating a lineup of “Urban Off-Roaders.” Unless your intent is flex your suspension on a parking lot or the nearest Prius, the need for a pavement cruiser sporting a Jeep name is about as meager and ultimately, as irrelevant, as a stock Chevy Aveo with drag radials.

This is not at all to say that the two can not coexist; I am in no way implying a Jeep-brand vehicle should not be as capable on road as it is off-road. However, is a Jeep Compass really “Trail Rated” or capable of honoring the heritage of the seven slotted, off-road ready division from Chrysler? Really, does the current Jeep Patriot remind any of us of the Willys that conquered WWII?


With a brand like Jeep, a brand that has many enthusiasts very wary of change, is a change towards the urban gas-saver or the chromed toy better than one that takes us further into the depths of the forest? These are questions that will come from the same group that held their breath when they found out their beloved inline 6cyl 4-liter engine was to be replaced. Why? Because the “Bullet Proof” reputation the 4-liter developed was emblematic of the whole Jeep line and migration towards anything that might sully that reputation is going to risk stirring up some negative feedback from the Jeep faithful.

Knowing and understanding, that, for many owners, owning a Jeep is a lifestyle as much a means of transportation makes me feel for the Jeep Nation out there. I almost want to say they are being had, and in a way they are. They now have to share their little club with groups that don’t necessarily mesh well at the local mud bog. Jeep for years had done well from a sales perspective selling the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, two versatile vehicles that could be fluent in the city as well as the trails, but there was a balance point, they could perform both terrains well and didn’t look out of place in either situation.

I suppose I am amongst the breed that likes to see a Jeep with a little mud on the tires, a few tree scrapes, and a couple of (at least figurative) war stories. But rather, the Jeep division is branching out to accommodate those that take to 20″ chrome wheels, low profile tires, and anything BUT a little dirt. Sure a Jeep Wrangler can still be had, the doors can be taken off (now up to 4,) and the top can be dropped. And while the Jeep division may be more profitable from a bean counter’s stand point with these latest models, I’m not a bean counter, I am simply an enthusiast that likes to think a vehicle has an individual purpose and a niche brand is just that, a niche and a brand image to be jealously guarded from both external competitors and the inexorable internal pressures to dilute it.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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5 Comments

  1. I agree with your points. I’m not even a big Jeep fan, but I hate to see what they’ve done with the brand with the past few abominations (Patriot, and especially the Compass). It’s especially frustrating since they’ve really rolled out some impressive concepts over the past few years, only to give us neutered offerings when finally in production. I envision Jeep (except the Wrangler) being a lower-cost American alternative to the Land Rover: off road capable, but comfortable and suitable for any environment. They should have an inexpensive, decontented, capable 4 door SUV like the X-Terra, which over the past few years has succeeded with the formula that Jeep seems to be abandoning, and in fact has out-Jeeped Jeep itself.

    Here’s to hoping that Jeep can find its success by going back to its roots.

    By the way, I assume this is HoeyHimself, so welcome to the Autosavant staff! 🙂

  2. I agree, Jeep needs to be careful about dumbing down their brand with vehicles like the Compass. I would like to see Jeep go the other way and bring out a tough, basic pickup like they used to have, and also offer a commercial variant of their Liberty platform, maybe as a panel van or a small pickup like the Bronco and the Scout had in the 1970s.

  3. The Compass is a chick Jeep, and is a blot on the history of Jeep vehicles. Wake up, Chrysler! You’re killing the drill here.

  4. The Gladiator pickup concept from a couple of years ago seems to be the obvious way for Jeep to go, but I guess it’s so obvious that Chrysler can’t see it. Or maybe it became unfeasible when pickup sales began falling, I don’t know.

  5. Wrangler pickup is what I want. Now that would be tres cool.

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