Will Americans warm to Italian Jeep?
Detroit - US SUV buyers opting for the new Jeep Renegade might soon find out that their American icon is made in Italy.
In a sign of what comes with the takeover of Chrysler by IFiat, US dealers have begun selling the Italian-made Jeep Renegade.
The first examples of the new compact 4x4 were shipped to dealers last week, with prices starting at around $20 000 (R236 000). The Renegade is likely to go on sale in South Africa in the coming months, but no prices have been confirmed as yet.
Jeep, which was taken over by American Motors in 1970 and then came under the control of Chrysler in 1987, has benefited greatly from the overwhelming popularity of SUVs in the US since the ‘90s.
The brand is now a key element of Fiat Chrysler Automobile's plans to expand globally, and the Renegade is tapping one of the hottest market segments right now: small SUVs.
The Renegade was designed and engineered at FCA US in Auburn Hills, Michigan, but is being built in a refurbished assembly plant in southern Italy.
FIAT BASE, JEEP SOUL
It shares a platform with other Fiat cars like the 500X and 500L and the Alfa Romeo MiTo. It will also be built in Brazil with components from Italy and the US, for local and export markets.
Art Anderson, FCA US chief engineer, said the Renegade was designed to deliver the Jeep brand's traditional capability in a relatively small package that is bolstered by the latest electronics, which are used in the driveline.
The Renegade is capable of switching automatically from four-wheel to two-wheel drive, and offers optional driver's-assistance features such as a backup camera.
The Renegade is expected to augment US sales without cutting into those of the Jeep Compass, Patriot and Wrangler, all of which have benefited from a revival of Jeep sales since the end of the recession in 2009.
Overall Jeep sales were up 20 percent in the first two months of 2015 compared with a year earlier, despite criticism of its quality by one of Americans' favorite car-buying guides, Consumer Reports.
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Will it be a hit in South Africa? And are you looking forward to its arrival?