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Detroit show: Manley open to baby Jeep

Hey baby: A sub-compact offering would give Jeep a model below Renegade.

Sub-Renegade SUV a chance as Jeep looks at segment opportunity

Jeep logo17 Jan 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in DETROIT

JEEP has confirmed it is looking at the possibility of a compact SUV to sit below Renegade.

Currently the smallest model Jeep offers, the Italian-built Renegade sits at the larger end of the small-SUV segment along with the Nissan Qashqai, while the new-generation Jeep Compass is only marginally bigger.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) head of Jeep and Ram brand Mike Manley confirmed the company was investigating the burgeoning segment.

“In my opinion I think that is part of the segment that is beginning to develop,” he said when pressed by GoAuto about the chances of a baby Jeep.

“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.”

If Jeep gives a sub-compact SUV the green light, it would take on the babies of the segment, including the Mazda CX-3, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Ford EcoSport, as well as the yet-to-be revealed Volkswagen T-Cross.

Meanwhile, Mr Manley responded to questions about his boss, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne’s suggestion that Jeep could potentially capture 20 per cent of the global SUV market.

“If you look at our performance in a number of our markets, we achieved that already,” he said. “And as we continue to expand, develop and invest in our range, clearly as an SUV brand we need some strong aspirations and that is one of them.”

Mr Marchionne made the comments in an interview with Bloomberg at the Detroit show this week.

“There’s nothing which can tell me that Jeep could not own one in five SUVs,” he told the publication. “If that’s true, the upside for FCA – we are just beginning to skim the surface.”

One in five SUVs globally would equate to about five million deliveries a year.

While FCA is yet to release sales figures for 2017, the company has previously targeted global registrations of two million units by 2018.

Mr Manley was cautious, but highlighted the company’s strategy of reducing its reliance on fleet sales – it intentionally reduced its fleet sales by 60 per cent last year.

“As we come into 2018, obviously one of our big changes is our reduction in fleet volume,” he said. “We are going to continue that through 2018.

“We have to see how the retail and our international markets develop, but that strategy I think is really important for the brand.

“It helps our residual values which obviously helps our brand and helps our customers. So we are going to continue that strategy and then we will look to our retail markets and see how much more they can make up.”

Mr Manley also said he was pleased with the progress the brand had made in improving the build quality and overall reliability of its models, but admitted there was still work to be done.

“I can tell you that the work we have put in has moved us on significantly,” he told GoAuto on the Detroit show stand. “One of our key focuses is to continue that process, to move it forward. It is a combination of our build quality, it is also a combination of the service quality that our dealers provide our customers.

“So we have big initiatives, both internally and with our dealers around the world, to continue to push that forward because for me, it is really, really crucial that we do it.

“I think we have made some really good gains but as ever you want to continue to push the envelope and that is what we are working on.”

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