In 2003, it sold 42,000 units – 7000 more SUVs – but swallowed just 5.4% of the segment, and last year its volume took a nose dive back to 35,000. Why? The number of Jeep rivals has more than doubled, from car makers as diverse as BMW and Hyundai.
But DaimlerChrysler’s off-road outpost is fighting back by launching yet more models into the crowded SUV market. Its Frankfurt show stand will feature three new 4x4s. First up is the Commander, a stretched 5+2-seat version of the Grand Cherokee, which arrives later this year.
But look out for two show cars, the Patriot and the Compass. Officially, these baby Jeeps – pitched below the Cherokee in size and price – are concepts. Unofficially, they hit UK showrooms in 2007.
The retro Patriot is a dead ringer for the 1983 Cherokee – a jacked up box with square wheelarches – except this one only comes with five doors. Insiders expect its macho look to be a hit with Alpha males.
The Compass looks more funky, like the love child of an SUV and a hot hatch. The rear door handles are hidden, new Seat Leon-style, for a coupé-esque flavour. Sources say women have given the concept a thumbs up in clinics.
Although the five-seaters don’t have a common body panel, they are spun off the same monocoque chassis. Codenamed GS, it’s the platform jointly developed by DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi, and also shared with the Dodge brand.
The platform has been engineered for both front- and four-wheel drive. In the States, Jeep plans to offer two-wheel drive versions, although Europe is tipped to get only four-wheel drive. DaimlerChrysler’s new petrol engine family, comprising 140bhp 1.8-, 150bhp 2.0- and 170bhp 2.4-litre, will provide the power. The diesel option for Europe is VW’s 130bhp 2.0-litre TDi, bought in by DC.
Together, the Patriot and Compass will unleash a two-pronged attack on Toyota’s Rav4, Honda’s CR-V and the Land Rover Freelander. At last, Jeep is ready to turn the tables on its SUV rivals.