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LA show: Jeep design to avoid retro look

History repeating: The Wrangler will remain the only real retro-styled Jeep, according to its head of design Mark Allen.

Jeep designer rejects retro styling and ‘Audi Russian doll’ design

Jeep logo3 Dec 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in LOS ANGELES

JEEP head of design Mark Allen says the SUV brand will maintain distinct looks for each of its model lines in the future and rejected the possibility of any more “retro” looking models.
 
The Wrangler – the design of which harks back to the original Willys Jeeps of the 1940s – is the only model that features true retro-influenced styling, while the Renegade is clearly influenced by its larger sibling. All of Jeep’s other models feature modern styling.
 
Speaking to GoAuto at last week’s Los Angeles motor show following the reveal of the Jeep Gladiator, Mr Allen said while he could not comment on future product, he would ensure each model has an individual flavour.
 
“I have two categories when I talk about Jeep,” he said. “We have the Wrangler side of the family – clearly Renegade is part of that family. Most everything else is from the Grand Cherokee side of the family. More refined, a little bit more muscular. I am glad I have both of those.
 
“I don’t subscribe to the Audi Russian doll small/medium/large (design strategy). At some point they just get blurry to me. I have always (pushed) a strong case that I want them all to look a bit different to each other and I have been supported on that so that’s good.”
 
Mr Allen said he would not pursue retro design themes for any of its future models.
 
“There is a lot of pressure from people to do more retro, especially as we go up –but I’m not going to do that. This (Wrangler) is retro enough. It’s not really retro because it never went away.”
 
Mr Allen said Jeep experimented with more radical designs for the new-generation Wrangler SUV that arrives in Australia in the first half of 2019, but ultimately decided to retain the familiar look of its most iconic model.
 
“I call it coming up with thee wrong answers to prove the right answer is right. We did sketches that scared us. In the end, we could go there, but it is not who we are. 
 
“(Porsche) 911 hasn’t strayed. We’ve never strayed. We have kept up and our sales just keep getting stronger and stronger.
 
“There may be a time when that needs to happen but that’s not now and we were proven right. There’s no need to.”
 
Mr Allen said there were opportunities to expand the Jeep line-up beyond its current global offerings that includes the Renegade, Compass, Cherokee, Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and now the Gladiator.
 
“You’ll see movement from us above Grand Cherokee, we are topped out at Grand Cherokee. There is obviously room above that. 
 
“The switch from car to SUV seems like it happened overnight but it has been a 20-year thing. They crossed over in 2014 and we are on a tear because all we make is SUVs, but we have to move (above) Grand Cherokee.
 
“Actually I think there is room for us at the bottom too. Not so much in this market (USA), but we are such a worldwide brand – the last seven years there’s been rapid expansion. We could do a lot of things. SUVs are red hot – that’s who we are.”
 
The so-called Jeep Grand Wagoneer three-row upper-large SUV has been in the works since 2011 when then head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Sergio Marchionne – who passed away in July this year – confirmed it’s development to Automotive News.
 
Seven years later there is still no flagship SUV and the latest reports suggest it won’t be seen until 2020 or 2021. It is likely to share its underpinnings with the next-generation Grand Cherokee five-seater.
 
Jeep introduced the Grand Commander seven-seat SUV ahead of this year’s Beijing motor show, but that model is a China-only proposition.
 
Meanwhile, former head of Jeep brand and now FCA CEO Mike Manley told GoAuto at this year’s Detroit motor show that there was space for a new small SUV to sit below the Compass and Renegade.
 
“Not necessarily here in North America, but if I look at European markets and other international markets, you can see that a smaller vehicle is developing and that is something we are looking very closely at right now.”

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