Ralph Gilles Is Sorry It Took So Damn Long to Resurrect the Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Ralph Gilles Is Sorry It Took So Damn Long to Resurrect the Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Jeep apologizes for not bringing the Grand Wagoneer back earlier, but the Fiat Chrysler (FCA) team probably wouldn’t have been able to do the premium three-row SUV justice if it had taken it out. ten years ago, at least according to the automaker. design director, Ralph Gilles.

“Times weren’t quite right back then,” says Gilles, in an interview following the worldwide reveal of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer Concept which is a precursor to the short wheelbase version of the tall SUV. range that will go on sale next summer for model year 2022. There will also be a long wheelbase version, and it will be part of a larger Wagoneer family with two sizes of a more affordable and more classic three-row .

“If this vehicle had been born 10 years ago, I don’t think we would have run it too,” says Gilles. “There is luxury in every square inch of this vehicle. “My team, 10 years ago, was not ready for this.” Since then a lot has been learned from other parts of the company on how to build luxury vehicles.

“A lot of things had to align, be it our know-how, our capabilities, the platforms we have, but honestly our confidence in the fact that the segment is very stable,” explains Gilles. “Looking back clearly now, yes, we probably should have tried to release it earlier, but I think our customers are still up for it.”

There’s a warehouse full of big stillborn wagons

Gilles has helped create a number of versions over the years – designs that date back to the mid-90s and are stored in a warehouse – as the full-size SUV project gained popularity and was repeatedly pushed back. . Despite numerous delays, it was never removed from the automaker’s series of five-year product plans.

“I think we are done with the good one,” said Gilles. “Some of them were trying too hard to be retro or trying too hard to be spaceships. We went with something much more timeless. I think the design is elegant.

The automaker has had enough retro with the Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Challenger, he said, acknowledging that everyone wants to know where the wood panels have gone. “We thought about it for about two minutes. But then we remembered that the original had contact paper on the sides. There was no believable way to do it without actually depreciating the vehicle, so we said we weren’t going to put it on the outside, we’re going to put it inside the car this time around. », Says Gilles without excuse. .

And there are a few similarities to the original, namely the way the windows were lowered as much as possible for an abundance of glass and a panoramic view. Plus, the way the front grille leans forward is reminiscent of old Wagoneers, says Gilles. What did not make the cut: the rear window does not descend, a compromise to keep the glass width desired by the team.


Retro would have been a mistake?

Not going retro was the right decision, says Christian Meunier, Jeep brand president. The large SUV segment has changed; the vehicles are larger and more upscale, with more technology and functionality than they were during the Grand Wagoneer’s past life. Today’s retro style would be a mistake, he said. The new, timeless design will allow the vehicle to live for 20 years.

The segment sells about 500,000 units per year in the US and Meunier says Jeep will be in the top three in terms of total sales with 70% of customers opting for the Wagoneer and the rest choosing the Grand Wagoneer.

The beauty of the premium three-row SUV is that it is truly an addition to the Jeep brand and the automaker in general, Gilles says. This will help develop the brand and retain Jeep Grand Cherokee customers who want a third row. While some might switch to a Ram pickup, many have had to turn to the competition. But, as GW’s sales are progressive and it doesn’t replace an existing vehicle, there was no rush either.

Finally, a flagship product for FCA

“This vehicle is a flagship of interiors for FCA in general, a flagship, hopefully, for the brand and we aim to be at the top of the segment on the go rather than slowly climbing up,” says Gilles. “We want to launch among the best in the world.”

The Jeep team promises that while the mainstream Wagoneer will be premium and have a strong family resemblance to the much more expensive Grand Wagoneer, there will be enough differentiation, especially in material quality, to justify the latter’s price tag. which could be $ 40,000 higher. . Creating the $ 60,000 to $ 70,000 Wagoneer was definitely a challenge for the team, Meunier said.

And yes, we should expect other variations. Jim Morrison, Jeep Brand Manager in North America, says they’ll listen to customers – who are already demanding versions that push on-road and off-road performance to the limit. Executives wouldn’t say if additional models have to wait for subsequent model years, but they did note that Jeep has retained the sales leadership of Grand Cherokee by continuing to add new attractions, including the supercharged Trackhawk and ready-made Trailhawk versions. for all-terrain. And the Wagoneer family uses a modified version of the Ram platform and is expected to share some powertrains as well. The new 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is equipped with the Hellcat Supercharged 6.2-liter V8 producing 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft – perfect for a performance version of the Grand Wagoneer in the future.

Dealer strategy

FCA has shown the new concept to dealers who have been asking for it for years. There will be more possibility to order the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer online, customers will be offered a concierge service to pick it up and deliver it after the service, customers will have a free 24/7 hotline 7 and the SUV will come with three years free. interview.

“One of the reasons it took so long is that we wanted to get it right,” says Gilles. “We didn’t rush this car at all. I apologize to everyone that it took us so long, but when you get to a party late you bring a hell of a good bottle of wine.

The post Ralph Gilles is sorry it took so long to resurrect the Jeep Grand Wagoneer first appeared on MotorTrend.

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