Jeep: Is Everyone Supposed to Understand?
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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