While official confirmation of the rumoured “Grand Wagoneer” seven-seater has yet to be issued by Jeep, Fiat Chrysler’s local branch says a large SUV makes sense for Australia and would enable the brand to push into more premium territory.
Speaking with The Motor Report at the recent launch of the Jeep Renegade compact SUV, FCA Australia CEO Pat Dougherty said dealer demand for a plus-sized Jeep wagon is strong.
“Our dealers are saying to us ‘hey, we would love to have a seven-passenger Jeep’,” Dougherty said.
“In my view that’s probably the next opportunity for us. Is that a Grand Wagoneer? maybe, is that something else? We don’t know, but that’s where the biggest interest is right now.”
Rumours of the Grand Wagoneer first surfaced earlier this year, and key executives and US dealers are said to have viewed a prototype vehicle in August.
FCA’s outspoken chief Sergio Marchionne has even publicly stated that the company will bring a Range Rover competitor to market, with a likely entry date of 2018. And it won’t be a upscaled Grand Cherokee with more chrome either:
“When I see a Range Rover on the street, my blood boils, because we should be able to do a thing like that - and we will,” said Marchionne in an interview with Bloomberg earlier this year.
Dougherty is more circumspect about details, however the FCA Australia boss said a product like the Grand Wagoneer would allow Jeep to expand its local product range into the luxury category and exploit demand for three-row SUVs..
“I think all of us like the Grand Wagoneer, but it’s too far out of my sights to speculate on it.
“It offers a great opportunity for us to move the brand further upscale though, and I think that there’s potential for that because the Jeep brand is going to be the number-one volume brand globally [for FCA].”
With the Grand Wagoneer to slot in above the existing Grand Cherokee range (which tops out at $84,000 for the high-performance SRT), Jeep’s incoming seven-seater would be priced in line with similar, though slightly smaller, products like the BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport.
Pricing for top-end grades could conceivably breach the $100k barrier.
However, as a full-sized SUV we can expect the Grand Wagoneer to be dimensionally closer to the Audi Q7 (below), Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and Lexus LX 570 - all of which have six-figure starting prices. A Mercedes GL for ML money.
Value wouldn’t be the only unique selling point though, with Dougherty highlighting the Jeep brand’s reputation for off-road nous as something that isn’t normally emphasised in top-dollar, three-row SUVs.
“I think we segment ourselves a bit differently,” he said.
“If we build a Grand Wagoneer - that would also be offroad capable - we believe that we have a different kind of niche that we’d be looking at.
“I’m not sure that we’d be going after the exact same segment [as other luxury large SUVs] .”
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