SAN ANTONIO – Jeep’s global push gets under way in earnest in 2017 with the launch of the Compass small CUV, followed by the next generation of the iconic Wrangler late this year.
The all-new ’17 Compass represents the last piece of a portfolio makeover begun in 2010, says Mike Manley, head of Jeep brand-FCA Global. Manley already is looking ahead to building global Jeep sales to a projected 1.9 million units by 2018. Global deliveries hit 1.4 million in 2016, up 13% year-over-year, with 1 million of those sales coming in North America, so the global upside is huge, Manley says.
Later this year, Jeep adds the high-performance Grand Cherokee Trackhawk to the lineup, followed by the all-new Wrangler.
But first, the Compass takes center stage with initial production beginning now, a marketing launch planned for the second quarter and full availability by May, says Scott Tallon, director-Jeep brand. The outgoing Compass and the new model initially will be sold side-by-side as ’17 models, with all-new ’18 Compasses filling the inventory as part of the normal summer model changeover.
Jeep executives already are warning that monthly sales comparisons will look sour for the first part of the year until the new model is fully stocked. WardsAuto data shows the outgoing Compass/Patriot duo were strong sellers in their final model year, accounting for 215,987 U.S. sales and 233,641 in North America in 2016.
Tallon is confident the Compass will quickly make up ground and could equal the outgoing models – in just seven months of sales.
“By breaking through the (production) constraints, we can do that,” he says. “The Compass is designed, engineered and built for the global market. We think it will be a significant volume contributor, not only in the U.S. but worldwide.”
The timing is good for Compass as it enters the ever-expanding small-CUV segment which accounted for 1.2 million sales in North America last year and is expected to grow 25% to 1.5 million by 2020, WardsAuto data shows. Manley says the small-CUV segment hit 6.3 million globally in 2016 and is projected to top 7.5 million by 2020.
Global production of the Compass is ramping up in India, Mexico and China, joining the Brazil plant already online. Production at the Toluca, Mexico, plant will support North America, Europe and Middle East markets.
With Compass/Patriot production ended at Belvidere, IL, Cherokee shifts there from Toledo, freeing space to build more Wranglers at the Ohio plant.
“This is a bit of transition year in manufacturing and we’re trying to minimize the impact to our dealers,” Tallon says.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger