DETROIT -- Jeep will resurrect a hallowed nameplate — the Grand Wagoneer — in two years.
“It's time we gave the market an upper-scale Grand Wagoneer,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said today. “You'll see it in January 2013.”
The Grand Wagoneer would be a seven-seat SUV built on the same platform as the Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango. Those two vehicles were part of Chrysler's 16-vehicle 2011 product offensive spearheaded by the hard-driving Marchionne.
Marchionne also sprang other surprises on reporters Monday at the North American International Auto Show:
Chrysler will likely kill one of its two traditional minivans for the next generation, due to arrive in 2014. Whichever brand does not get a minivan would get some kind of “people mover,” Marchionne said, perhaps without sliding doors.
It's likely Dodge would keep its Grand Caravan minivan, since it has historically outsold the Chrysler Town & Country, although the Town & Country was the segment champion in 2010.
Marchionne added that the Town & Country has refinement that Chrysler does not want to lose, whatever the new minivan lineup looks like.
Marchionne said Chrysler Group needs to be more flexible with the architecture that supports its minivans. “It needs to house all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive and an E segment car.” Chrysler is coming with a new nine-speed front-wheel drive transmission in 2013.
Decision on Nitro-Liberty replacement
Chrysler is near a decision on the replacement for the lightly regarded Dodge Nitro and Jeep Liberty SUVs, built at the company's Toledo North Assembly plant, Marchionne said.
“It's the most significant hole in our product portfolio,” said Marchionne, referring to the mid-sized SUV segment. The Nitro and Liberty, which trail segment leaders such as the Honda CRV and Ford Escape, were among the few vehicles that were not revamped in the 2011 product offensive.
Referring to the Nitro, he said: “It needs to be replaced,” but not necessarily by a Dodge-brand SUV. Chrysler is conducting customer clinics on replacement vehicles and has it about 80 percent right, Marchionne said.
“Give us about 40 days” to make a decision, he said.
Continued Hemi investment
Though some industry experts have questioned the survival of the V-8 engine in the 35 mpg era, Chrysler will continue upgrading its legendary Hemi V-8 engine. “We need to continue to invest” in the Hemi, Marchionne said.
The Jeep Grand Wagoneer was a mainstay of the Jeep lineup dating from the introduction of the Wagoneer nameplate in 1963. The last Grand Wagoneers sold in 1991. The Grand Wagoneer ended its life as a luxury vehicle, selling mainly to wealthy customers.
Marchionne said the vehicle would be priced higher than the top-of-the-line Dodge Durango Citadel or the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, he said.
When asked how the Grand Wagoneer would differ from the seven-seat Jeep Commander, a widely panned vehicle Chrysler stopped making in 2010, Marchionne had some harsh words: “That car was unfit for human consumption. We sold some. But I don't know why people bought them.”