Jeep Renegade, made for overseas, will offer entry point for U.S. buyers

The Renegade takes its basic shape and design cues from several previous Jeep vehicles.
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DETROIT -- The 2015 Jeep Renegade is the first Jeep designed for sale around the world since the first Jeep was designed to sail around the world -- in military transports.

The subcompact Renegade, being unveiled today at the Geneva Motor Show, shares a platform with the Fiat 500L and will be assembled in a Fiat plant in Melfi, Italy. Its boxy, upright design is reminiscent of the 2002 Jeep Liberty, but it is smaller and more technologically advanced in almost every respect.

The Renegade is joining the Jeep brand as it targets selling 1 million vehicles worldwide annually, up 37 percent from a record 731,565 last year.

The Renegade's design is intended to appeal to buyers in Europe, Latin America and Asia more than those in North America. The vehicle is scheduled to go on sale in Europe by year end and in the United States in early 2015, a Chrysler Group spokesman said.

Jeep brand head Mike Manley, who also is the lead executive for Chrysler's international operations, said global subcompact SUV sales top 2.7 million units annually, including 1.1 million each in Europe and Asia.

But in the United States, Jeep's competitors sell only about 250,000 subcompact SUVs annually, and -- until the Renegade goes on sale -- Jeep sells none.

The company has not released sales targets, but supplier sources have told Automotive News Europe that Fiat and Jeep plan annual production of up to 280,000 units of the two models. Jeep's volume will be about 150,000, while Fiat's version will account for 130,000 units.

Manley said the segment's global scale "can act as an entryway into our brand. It's smaller vehicles, very competitive pricing and one that can attract a pretty young demographic. For Jeep, that's very, very important."

The global plans for the vehicle underscore the history of the original Jeep, made during World War II, which served in every theater around the world and was heralded for its versatility.

Cherokee-like

The Renegade, similar to the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, will have a variety of powertrain options, depending on where it's sold. Like the Cherokee, it will be available in a Trailhawk model that provides for a crawl gear and additional ground clearance.

In North America, it will come with either a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces 160 hp and 170 pounds-feet of torque combined with a six-speed manual, or a 2.4-liter inline-four that produces 184 hp and 177 pounds-feet of torque combined with a nine-speed automatic. The smaller engine comes standard on the Sport and Latitude models, while the larger engine comes standard on the Limited and Trailhawk models. Manley said fuel economy would be more than 30 mpg.

Full-time all-wheel drive, what Jeep calls Active Drive, is optional on the Renegade, and features automatically disconnecting power takeoff and rear differential that reduce parasitic losses when more traction is unneeded. The Trailhawk model comes standard with Active Drive Low, which allows the Jeep to crawl over obstacles for maximum torque.

Jeep styling

The Renegade takes its basic shape and design cues from several previous Jeep vehicles. Like the early Liberty, the Renegade has a tall greenhouse and stubby nose. Its front fascia is dominated by its round headlights and Jeep's seven-slot grille, both in homage to the Wrangler. Renegade's rear, however, is more vertical, like its windshield.

Despite those similarities, Renegade features a number of first-time Jeep elements, including rear brake lights with X-shaped clear inserts that give it a distinctive look. It also has two optional roofs: one with a traditional sunroof and the other with two removable panels that give it an open-air feel. The Trailhawk model, like the Cherokee Trailhawk, also has painted red tow hooks poking out from the front and rear bumpers.

"We put in as much Wrangler DNA as we could," said Mark Allen, Jeep's head of design.

'Blank slate'

Interior designers said they looked at the Renegade as a "blank slate" for the brand because Jeep didn't have a subcompact SUV.

Klaus Busse, Chrysler Group's head of interior design, assigned his youngest designer to do the project, and told him "to design an interior for a car that he would want to drive."

Inside the cabin, Renegade features a 7-inch center stack infotainment screen, as well as a digitized, customizable instrument cluster. It has an electronic parking brake and a terrain-select dial to help it achieve the best traction on loose surfaces, but uses a traditional shifter instead of the rotary-dial shifter used on the Cherokee.

Chrome or brightly colored accents, depending on trim level, highlight the shifter, dashboard grab handle and doors. Designers also included several surprise features in the vehicle associated with the Jeep brand, such as an embossed map of an off-road trail in Moab, Utah, in a bin below the control panel. Similarly, the high-rev portion of the tachometer is highlighted with what looks like a color-coded mud splatter.

Jeep has not announced U.S. pricing for the Renegade.

Automotive News Europe contributed to this report.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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