The arrival of the all-new Jeep Wrangler in the UK in November will act as a halo for the brand and underpin a sales push built on its go-anywhere reputation, according to new managing director Arnaud Leclerc.
While Jeep sales have grown substantially in recent years – from 231,701 in 2009 to 1,388,208 last year – the firm has been slammed for posting a slight drop in sales in 2017, despite the market for SUVs booming around the world.
The most stinging criticism of that sales performance came from FCA boss Sergio Marchionne, who at the turn of this year described the efforts of Jeep’s European team as “lousy”. Leclerc was appointed to head Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ UK arm from the PSA Group in January.
“It is true that 2016 and 2017 were hard for us, but 2018 has potential,” said Leclerc. “We have the right products for the market now and the prospect of more to come.
“The Wrangler is an icon and underpins Jeep’s authenticity as one of very few brands that gives every car it sells genuine off-road ability. Other SUV brands are going in other directions, but let’s say that Jeep will never make a coupé. Our heart is in 4x4.”
The Wrangler, a rival for the Land Rover Defender, will be sold in two and four-door variants. Emphasising its modern makeover, engine options will include a 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor that uses a twin-scroll turbocharger and mild-hybrid technology. Other units include a 3.6 petrol and 3.0 diesel.
Like its predecessors, the new Wrangler is based on a body-on-frame chassis design. It features five-link suspension, while the roll centre height has been raised and spring rates retuned to boost the vehicle’s off-road abilities and improve ride quality.
“The potential of that size and price of car is enormous,” he said. “It is true that the market is very crowded now, and there is a lot of competition, but that is why having a halo product like the Wrangler is so important. It embodies all the qualities of our brand and demonstrates the spirit of what our cars can give to customers.