JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. -- Although the replacement for the Jeep Compass and Patriot will come from a front-wheel-drive Fiat car platform, Jeep CEO Mike Manley wants to be very clear about its Jeep bona fides and off-road capability.
"Even though the technology and the platform is Fiat, it will be 100 percent Jeep," Manley said. The vehicle, he added, will be developed by "pure Jeep engineers. That's why product stays here in the U.S."
In about 18 months, the new Jeep will replace both the Compass and Patriot compact crossovers, which share a platform, engine and optional equipment. Those vehicles offer both fwd and all-wheel-drive configurations.
Chrysler and Dodge will have compact sedans based on the same platform that will be used by Jeep.
A Jeep source said the automaker is debating whether to choose a new name or keep Compass or Patriot.
Through November, U.S. sales for the Compass and Patriot totaled 49,672, up 26 percent over 2009.
Since its debut in the 2007 model year, the Patriot has been Trail Rated, a Jeep designation for traction, ground clearance and other factors that promise off-road capability. The Compass was not originally built for off-road use, but the 2011 model has an optional Trail Rated package. Jeep will trail-rate the replacement vehicle.
"We have a very rigorous set of criteria that Jeep vehicles have to pass through before you trail-rate," Manley said. But off-road capability varies by segment and model. "Wrangler capability is going to be more capable than a compact SUV."