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Jeep maps new course with Compass, Renegade

Moral Compass: The second-gen Jeep Compass will land in Australian showrooms in December, with pricing still yet to be confirmed.

New Jeep Compass SUV here in December, while Renegade in line for relaunch

Jeep logo1 Jun 2017

By TIM ROBSON in AUCKLAND

AS JEEP continues its long, slow climb back up the sales charts in Australia, company officials are placing a lot of faith in the forthcoming Compass to provide robust support in the burgeoning medium SUV segment, while acknowledging that the small Renegade needs a reboot in order to improve its fortunes.

The Compass has been confirmed for launch in December this year, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia confirming that the line-up would contain an off-road-centric Trailhawk variant as part of a “wide” range.

“I can tell you … we’ll have a pretty wide range, all coming from the entry to the Trailhawk,” said the head of the Jeep brand in Australia, Guillaume Drelon, adding that FCA Australia “would love” to see an SRT version.

Mr Drelon said he believed that the Compass – which will be sourced from FCA’s new right-hand-drive-only plant in Ranjangaon, India – will appeal to a new and wider set of customers as well as the brand’s more loyal followers.

“We are pretty excited because the product will be a complete breakthrough against the previous Compass and Patriot,” the French-born executive said at the Grand Cherokee launch in New Zealand this week. “It’s really one step further into the way we can tackle the everyday needs of our customer.

“In the mind of people, Jeep is good off road, which is fine. This is our DNA.

But it’s not enough. What we need to tell also to our customer that our cars fit everything they could need, whether it’s in terms of product content, price grade, package and everything else.”

FCA Australia president and CEO Steve Zanlunghi would not be drawn on sales volume predictions, but acknowledged that the Compass is a vital car in the company’s fortunes.

“I’m going to be conservative (with sales forecasts), but the aspirations for the Compass, the investment that we made in that vehicle for starters, has been significant,” he said. “We’ve obviously got high hopes for that vehicle.”

Mr Zanlunghi also admitted that the smaller Renegade SUV had failed to live up to internal expectations since its launch in October 2015, with Australian sales performance figures amongst the worst in the FCA empire.

“We went back and did a post-op on what happened to Renegade, and there was a lot of different things that went into what I consider not the best launch in the world,” he said. “It’s very expensive when you have to re-launch a car.”

Mr Zanlunghi confirmed that the Renegade would be relaunched in the third quarter of this year, suggesting that there is space for the car in one of the biggest segments in the Australian industry, and that establishing product recognition was just as important as correct pricing.

“We’ve had very good success across the globe with it,” he said. “I think this is one of the very few markets in the world where it really hasn’t gained traction, because that plant where we build it at in Melfi (Italy) is basically sold out.”

Sitting at just 280 units for the year to the end of April, Jeep has managed to sell just one Renegade for every 20 Mazda CX-3s sold in the same period.

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