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December 29, 2013

Jeeps big and small on tap for enthusiasts

There are a lot of Jeeps in the pipeline, from a all-new subcompact to a revival of the full-size Grand Wagoneer and a replacement for the Compass and Patriot.

Chrysler has long recognized Jeep’s international appeal. Global sales were 701,000 vehicles in 2012 and this year’s total will be significantly higher. That’s not bad given that the automaker did not have the Jeep Liberty for most of the year and the Cherokee that replaced it only went on sale in late October.

This year, about 25 percent of Jeep sales are coming from outside North America, up from an average of 20 percent in the past.

With the launch of the midsize Cherokee behind him, Jeep CEO Mike Manley is concentrating on the smallest Jeep ever sold in the U.S. The subcompact will be built in Italy for global markets and go on sale about a year from now, Manley said last month at the Los Angeles auto show.

Manley said a name has been chosen for the vehicle, but he didn’t reveal it. The small SUV explores new marketing territory for Jeep, and will compete with the Mini, a new Honda Fit SUV and the Kia Soul.

“I think it will be quite a surprise where customers come from,” he said, noting that crossover sales of all sizes are growing faster than the overall industry.

At the large end of the spectrum is the Grand Wagoneer. Engineered from the underpinnings of the Grand Cherokee with room for a third row of seats, the Grand Wagoneer will be the most luxurious and priciest Jeep ever made.

“We’re looking to make a statement in that segment,” Manley said.

The SUV is still more than a year from showrooms.

Manley would not say where the Wagoneer will be built. The Jefferson North plant where Chrysler makes Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, is running at capacity on three shifts. There is an idled engine plant nearby, but Manley said the lack of a paint shop rules it out.

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