DETROIT -- An altered product strategy giving Jeep new truck-based luxury SUVs and an Alfa Romeo-based Grand Cherokee in 2019 could make it easier for Fiat Chrysler dealers to win business from rival General Motors.
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne last week confirmed the new strategy for the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, which calls for those vehicles to be built body-on-frame on what is believed to be the current Ram 1500 DS platform.
"Now the cards are all laid out on the table and you know," Marchionne said at the Detroit auto show. "We've now confirmed the [Jeep] pickup truck in Toledo. We've confirmed Wagoneer and the Grand Wagoneer as being body-on-frames. All those decisions that we've been working on are out. We're just in execution mode."
For dealers, the altered Jeep strategy is expected to mean less expensive Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers. Last September, Jeep head Mike Manley floated a prospective top-end sticker price of $140,000 for his new luxury SUV family, when those vehicles were expected to be unibody rather than body-on-frame.
If they are priced lower, that will put the new big Jeeps in competition with GM's popular truck-based SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe.
Jon Gray, owner of Orange Coast Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram-Fiat in Orange County, Calif., said Jeep's amended product plan "would seem a natural progression walk-up for a consumer from Com-pass, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer."
Gray said that for FCA dealers, Wagoneers and Grand Wagoneers priced against the Tahoe and Chevy Suburban, rather than against, say, a Range Rover, means fishing "in a bigger market pond."
Previously, Marchionne had said repeatedly that a unibody Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer would be co-developed with a next-generation unibody Grand Cherokee. That plan has been scrapped, in part because of FCA's North American manufacturing capacity constraints.
He now says the next-generation Grand Cherokee will be built on the same Alfa Romeo-developed Giorgio platform that underpins the Italian brand's Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover.
"The Grand Cherokee will need a new architecture, and the most natural application of a further evolution of the [Giorgio] platform is the Grand Cherokee," Marchionne said.
"We're finishing off the study now," he said. But "going on the basis of the latest available information," Giorgio "is the basis on which the next Grand Cherokee will be developed, unless there is something that happens in the next 60 days to suggest that it's not doable."