In the next four years, the Chrysler group will significantly alter the Jeep brand.
Jeep, known for off-roading, will move into new territory: front-wheel drive. Also for the first time, a Dodge vehicle will be derived from a Jeep platform. Until now, Jeep platforms have not been shared with Chrysler or Dodge.
The Jeep line for the 2005 to 2008 model years reflects the Chrysler group's determination that Jeep must add nameplates and models to keep pace with the sport wagon explosion. But the strategy is risky. The moves may weaken an iconic off-road brand and alienate Jeep loyalists. Sharing Jeep architecture with Dodge deepens the risk.
During the next four model years, Jeep will introduce a
The Wrangler derivative, an inexpensive SUV, is based on a small fwd platform being co-developed with one of DaimlerChrysler's alliance partners. One source says the partner is Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Dodge will begin selling a compact SUV based on the Jeep Liberty platform in fall 2006.
Jeeps have been capable of traversing the Rubicon Trail, an off-road route in California. But not all future Jeeps will be required to meet that rigorous standard. The company will require only existing nameplates - the Wrangler, Liberty and Grand Cherokee - to retain their rugged off-road capabilities.
In 1995, Jeep held 24.3 percent of the SUV market in the United States, excluding sport wagons. Through July, Jeep's 2004 share was 15.7 percent of the SUV market, excluding sport wagons.