DaimlerChrysler Corp. has aggressive expansion plans for the Jeep brand for the '04-'07 model years, including two entry-level products and a high-end Grand Cherokee variant, with the first of the affordable Jeeps expected to debut next year.
The strategy is to grow the brand among young buyers who seek Jeep status for safety and security — as well as those whose lifestyles take them off-road.
“One entry level is not enough,” says Richard O. Schaum,Group head of product development, quality and passenger car operations. “I'm convinced you need two.”
TheGroup showed some of its intent at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January with the Jeep Compass and Willys2 concepts.
Easiest to put into production is the Compass as an entry-level Liberty off the compact SUV platform. The Liberty is assembled in the new Toledo, OH, plant, a facility designed to accommodate a second product.
Trevor Creed, senior vice president-design, says Compass is basically a 2-door Liberty without as much glass, sheet metal, weight and price. The Willys2 concept also is entry level, but is more minimalist in its design, says Creed.
Willys2 did not come off the Wrangler platform, but is “a new and unique architecture,” says Creed. “The Wrangler platform is so old and so outdated it doesn't meet any of the upcoming requirements for FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) for front and rear impact, so there would be no point in going to all that trouble,” he says. But the next-generation Wrangler could come off the Willys2 platform, Creed says, without confirming it will.