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Next Jeep Grand Cherokee set to spawn seven-seater

Tried before: The seven-seat Jeep Commander retailed between 2006 and 2010 in Australia, but was never a sales hit.

Jeep investigating extended wheelbase with a third-row option for 2016 premium SUV

3 Jul 2013

A SEVEN-SEATER version of the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee is thought to be under development.

Expected to be unveiled in around 2016, the third-row option will accompany a stretch in wheelbase compared to today’s WK series, though whether it means Jeep will offer two sizes to also accommodate the five-seater version is unclear.

Jeep senior chief engineer John C Mrozowski spoke on the need for such a vehicle at this week’s revised, current Grand Cherokee launch in Queensland.

While Mr Mrozowski did not reveal any specific details about upcoming models, he did concede that the brand does need a seven-seater in its line-up as soon as possible.

“There are definitely opportunities for a seven-seat Jeep,” he told GoAuto, “but I can’t talk any future products at this time”.

According to Fiat Chrysler Australia chief operating officer Matthew Wiesner, Jeep is contemplating all upcoming options in order to secure any future seven-seater models for this market.

“We do need a seven-seater,” admitted Mr Wiesner, “all parties agree we need and want a seven-seater for Jeep.

“What the solution is, it is still not definite, but every opportunity is being looked at from the point of view of what will work in Australia.”

Previous Jeep management flagged the potential of the North American-market Dodge Durango – a close relative to the WK Grand Cherokee – as a potential candidate.

However the numbers do not add up since the projected Australian volume would not justify the added expense of tooling up for right-hand drive just for this country.

“Believe me, (Jeep in Australia) talked long and hard on that vehicle,” Mr Mrozowski said. “But in the end they couldn’t make it work.”

Mr Wiesner believes that Jeep buyers are a different breed to Dodge customers, and so would only contemplate a vehicle with the premium positioning and hard-won heritage of a Jeep.

Sister brands Dodge and Fiat offer seven-seaters in the form of the Journey and Freemont twins, but both are more MPV than SUV.

“The Journey does a good job from a Dodge point of view, it’s great value, and Freemont’s developing well for Fiat,” said Mr Wiesner.

“But Jeep as the premium SUV brand in this market needs one, given the competition across Japanese, European and Australian competitors in this segment.

“So we have to find the best solution in order to expand into these. We’ve got to be able to compete in that market.

“The US has got the Durango, and that’s a solution for them, but now it’s a matter of how we can get that solution too.

“So while Journey is doing well it’s not a Jeep. Jeep is a brand with an aura and heritage and that’s what people want. Jeep people want a Jeep –and we will find a solution.”

Stretching an existing model to create a seven-seater wagon is not new for the company.

Based on the previous-generation WH Grand Cherokee platform, the XH Commander utilised a much boxier shape to maximise interior packaging.

But divisive styling, low-cost interior ambience, and high prices (ranging from $60,000 to over $72,000) meant the model failed to find an audience in Australia.

Between 2006 and 2010 just 1278 were officially registered.

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