Jeep Needs Some Serious Competition Soon [Op/Ed]

The Very Off-Road Worthy but very old JK
The TFLcar 2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock

It is often said that competition improves the breed. I completely agree. That’s why it is high time that an auto manufacturer, besides Jeep, realized that off-road ability and prowess sells.

Today’s American new car buyers are looking for cars that do more than just go from point A to point B. They want a car that’s affordable, fun to drive, has blue collar ability with white color sensibility, reflects their values, and can easily ford the living dead in the case of a zombie apocalypse.

There’s really only one brand that represents these values and that brand is Jeep. And perhaps more importantly, that’s why Jeep is the jewel in the crown of FCA. However, I fear that no other car manufacturer is seriously trying to compete with Jeep.

For example:

  • Hummer is dead.
  • Buick is busy re-branding European Opels and selling them with traditional French American names.
  • Cadillac is busy poorly competing with the Germans. Their best sellers are in fact the only Cadillacs that can go off-road: the Escalade and SRX.
  • Chevy’s and Ford’s most off-road worthy vehicles are trucks. Good luck selling these to the young urban zombie-fearing buyer.
  • Subaru is busy building cars for dogs.
  • Land Rover and Range Rover and Mercedes can (and do) build off-road worthy cars but you have to give up food and water for a few years to afford one.
  • The Volkswagen group builds and sells several off-road-worthy vehicles including the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne, but no one in American can spell or afford one.
  • Nissan just killed the Xterra.
  • Honda doesn’t seem to like getting muddy.
  • KIA, Hyundai, Mazda and Mitsubishi are busy building crossovers that don’t really cross over any serious off-road terrain.
  • MINI has mini ground clearance.
  • Lexus builds very capable and very expensive re-branded Toyotas that will go off-road.
  • Toyota is busy killing the FJ and replacing it with the only real Jeep Wrangler competitor: the 4Runner.
  • Did I forget anyone? Oh yes, BMW, Jaguar and Volvo build AWD cars that can go off-road but are much better when they don’t.
Toyota 4Runner
The Last Man Standing: The Toyota 4Runner

That only leaves Jeep selling hundreds of thousands of Jeeps each year. But I have a sneaking suspicion that these Jeeps would be better if Jeep actually had some serious competition.

  • The Jeep Wrangler is not getting old – it is old – and the new one keeps getting delayed.
  • The Jeep Renegade is brand new, but it’s built in Europe as a re-branded Fiat. How about them apples?
  • The Jeep Cherokee is the brave new face of Jeep but it is still struggling with the 9-speed automatic gearbox.
  • The Jeep Grand Cherokee sells well and even has a diesel option. How about them apples, too?
  • The rest of the Jeep lineup (Patriot and Compass) does not sell that well and needs some money, development and FCA TLC.

I’m anxiously waiting for someone else to get into the serious off-road game and raise the level competition for the benefit of all of us off-road enthusiasts.

  • Perhaps Ford is ready to drop the new Bronco at this year’s LA Auto Show. Once upon a time it was a serious competitor to the Jeep Wrangler.
  • Perhaps Land Rover will build and sell and affordable Defender on this side of the pond. I’m not holding my breath.
  • Perhaps Nissan will replace the Xterra with a big, bad, off-road worthy version of the upcoming Titan.
  • Perhaps VW will build and sell an affordable people’s version of the Touareg or Cayenne. Or (hint) they’ll actually build a serious off-road version of the Golf.  Why not? They already have the chassis, the engine and the AWD system.

At the end of the day, all we know that there are plenty of new car buyers who are eager for their next zombie apocalypse car. Perhaps more importantly, from my point of view, a little serious competition would better Jeep’s reliability, price and even off-road prowess.