Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has big plans for Jeep. He told a recent investors’ presentation in Germany that he considers the seven-bar grille to be one of two 'global brands' in the group (the other, unsurprisingly, is Alfa Romeo) and that he plans to double Jeep's worldwide sales from 400 000 in 2010 to 800 000 in 2014.
Pie in the sky? No way; as always, the pudgy little Canadian who refuses to wear a tie (even for a papal audience!) has a plan.
That plan includes a series of new models which will cover every segment of the SUV/crossover market, starting with a little B-segment SUV, probably about the size of a Nissan Juke.
The Compass and Patriot will be scrapped in favour of a single model on a similar platform but with less boxy architecture (but don't expect too much, squared-off corners are in the Jeep DNA) and there will be a replacement model for the D-segment Liberty.
The iconic Wrangler and Grand Cherokee will be updated. The Wrangler in particular needs it; since the four-door version was introduced it seems to have lost its way.
And Marchionne has already stated that a new, seven-seater Grand Wagoneer flagship model will be introduced in January 2013.
The big X-factor, however, is the current contract talks between Chrysler and the Union of Auto workers, which will not influence the new model line-up but could radically affect where they are built - especially the C-segment Compass/Patriot replacement, on which Marchionne will, to a large extent, be pinning his hopes of volume sales.
If the UAW gives him enough uphill he might just decide to build it outside the US (maybe in Austria or even Slovakia), offsetting the cost of shipping the cars to their primary markets against cheaper labour.
Ambitious? Yes. Unlikely? No; our money is on Marchionne and, if they're smart, the guys and girls at Jeep who kept the brand going through the collapse of the US auto industry and who could be about to reap the benefits.