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Jeep shoots for the Summit

Scaling new heights: The US-market Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit is the brand’s luxury flagship, and Australia is interested in it.

Flagship Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit mooted for Australia


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5 Jul 2013

JEEP Australia plans to scale new heights to attract Grand Cherokee buyers, flagging it may add a flagship luxury variant to round out a range that has just added a cheap entry-level version.

The luxurious range-topper, called the Summit, is already on sale in the US, and now Jeep’s local arm says it has asked about right-hand-drive versions for Australia.

“There’s potential for the Summit to be added to Australia. That specification level would appeal to Australia buyers,” Fiat Chrysler Australia director of corporate affairs Karla Leach said.

While a local launch is still not confirmed, any such addition would potentially give Jeep a comparatively affordable rival to SUVs such as the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class and Audi’s Q5, with the added bonus of proper off-road credentials.

Should it land here, the Summit would be priced above the current $71,000 Overland luxury leader, although it’s unclear if it would also exceed the hardcore $77,000 SRT8 performance-leader as the range flagship.

As the name suggests, the Summit sits at the top of the range with features such as ‘Natura Plus’ leather with Alcantara imitation suede welting, imitation suede on the interior pillars, wood inserts, adaptive headlights, rear-seat entertainment screens, a 19-speaker audio system, air suspension, and forward collision and accident mitigation driver aid technology,.

External design features include a unique 20-inch wheel design and special chrome garnishes on the doorsills and front and rear valance.

If the Summit does make it here, it would book-end the Grand Cherokee line-up alongside the new rear-drive Laredo entry level offering, which this week cut the price of entry to the range to $43,000.

This move down-market gives Jeep its best chance yet of poaching even more potential Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger buyers and the lower end of large SUV market, according to Fiat Chrysler Australia chief operating officer and director of sales Matthew Wiesner, “The brand strength in Jeep to be able to compete in that 2WD mid-$40,000 driveway space is a fantastic opportunity, because it pushes us amongst that volume area against Ford, Holden, and Toyota,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Grand Cherokee facelift in Queensland this week.

“The ‘premiumnness’ of our vehicle makes the Laredo market-leadership material from a quality perspective, and gives Jeep a great opportunity to grab buyers from that 2WD space dominated by Toyota and Ford while reaching up into the premium and luxury SUV segments.

“But will it erode that luxury offering in the Grand Cherokee? No it won’t. The brand is strong enough to do both jobs. Jeep can compete in both camps, absolutely.”

Grand Cherokee sales have continued their upward march in 2013, with volume up 34.1 per cent year-to-date. In turn, the 8373 units sold in 2012 represented an almost 150 per cent volume jump over the previous year’s efforts.

Fiat Chrysler Australia president and chief executive Veronica Johns said the Laredo 2WD version would most probably bring incremental sales rather than steal from its 4WD brethren, since the former “speaks to the urban adventurer” while the latter is for the more serious off-roader, as per Jeep’s reputation.

“There’s definitely plenty of potential with the 2WD,” she said. With the Laredo’s new pricing it is a new segment for us, and so creates new opportunities. The Laredo 4x4 is already very strong for us anyway.”

Ms Johns said she did not believe the lack of a Laredo diesel 2WD would hurt its chances.

“I don’t know if consumers really want it,” she said. “Kluger doesn’t have a diesel and Territory’s offered one only in the last two years. So we’re focussing on tailoring the right product for Australia.”

The company has not divulged its internal volume projections, but Mr Wiesner said it would be “fascinating” to see how much volume the 2WD Grand Cherokee would attract.

“For the first couple of months we’re going to feel our way to get an indicator of what the mix will be. It should be incremental volume on top of the 4WDs.”

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