Jeep expects to reach a critical milestone this year, topping 2 million sales worldwide, or more than triple its volume when the old Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy and was transformed into FiatChrysler early in the decade.
To get there, Jeep has taken a two-pronged approach: entering into new markets and both expanding and updating its line-up. Nowhere is that strategy paying off like China, a market that has only belatedly been caught up in the SUV craze. To take advantage of that trend, the automaker is launching an all-new model specifically targeting the Chinese market, the Jeep Grand Commander.
According to Jeep, the three-row, seven-seat model has been designed specifically for China. But it just happens to be coming online not long before the company plans to launch another three-row model, the Grand Wagoneer. And that raises the question: how much of what we’re seeing in China will carry over into the American seven-seat SUV?
Fiat Chrysler isn’t saying all that much about the new Jeep Grand Commander, saving specifics for the official media and public debut at the Beijing Auto Show in April. But a few details have been released and it’s easy to pull together some other bits of information.
To start with, the Grand Commander appears to closely follow the styling of the Yuntu Concept that was unveiled last year at the Shanghai Auto Show, though it now gets LED headlamps and taillights and a somewhat more coupe-like roofline, with a panoramic moonroof stretching over nearly all three rows. There’s also a roof rack and plenty of chrome and a dual exhaust system to give the Grand Commander a more upscale look.
A closer look at the images released by Jeep show relatively limited approach and departure angles, suggesting the long-wheelbase model isn’t intended to go off-road, at least no more than it might be expected to in dealing with some of the rough roads found in much of China.
(Jeep Cherokee gets a more conventional look for 2018. Click Here for the story.)
It does have a four-wheel-drive system, however, and due to the hefty, displacement-based taxes now in place around China the new model will be powered by a compact 2.0-liter turbo gas engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
That appears to be the same engine Jeep is offering in the much smaller 2018 Jeep Wrangler. In U.S. trim it makes 270 horsepower but Chinese news reports indicate it will be offered there in two configurations making 234 and 265 hp.
The Jeep Grand Commander was developed in cooperation with Guangzhou Automotive Group, or GAC, which has become the brand’s partner in the Chinese market. It’s the same company that, a few months back, had hinted it might want to buy FCA or, at the least, it’s Jeep brand. The company has since backed off on that statement and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne last week said he has no intention of breaking up his company nor plans to sell it to the Chinese.
(Click Here for more about FCA’s unwillingness to sell Jeep.)
But the ties between the two companies are expected to grow. GAC is displaying some of its products at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit and says it intends to be in the market sometime next year. It is possible it may seek FCA’s help setting up a U.S. distribution network.
It’s not clear what platform the Chinese Jeep Grand Commander rides on, but it very well could be one supplied by GAC, which is one of China’s largest SUV brands.
The long-anticipated Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer – both expected to reach American dealers around 2020 – will more likely ride on a modified version of the platform developed for the latest Ram 1500. It’s an extremely flexible architecture that is also underpinning the all-new Wrangler.
(To see more about our first drive in the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, Click Here.)
Few would be surprised to see some of the styling cues of the Grand Commander carry over to the Wagoneer line, though it would move a bit more upscale and almost certainly offer more traditional Jeep off-road capabilities, including a “trail-rated” version. That’s an essential element in the Jeep DNA for the U.S. and many other markets, though for China that seems of relatively marginal interest for most buyers.