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Jeep Grand Wagoneer concept shows FCA is ready to play with big SUVs

By Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

DETROIT _The big question for many people wondering about the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer has involved wood.

How much would there be?

The wood grain look on the outside helped many of the old Wagoneers stand out. It's one of the things people mention when they recall them today.

The vehicle Fiat Chrysler Automobiles unveiled to journalists last week placed wood, at least what's on the exterior with more inside, in a few clever spots that seem designed to connect it to the past without emphasizing it - some teak suspended by the copper latticework in the roof rack, for instance.

But this is a concept vehicle. Whether there are any surprises planned for when Jeep's new full-size and luxury SUVs arrive next year is hard to say.

The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer (the company mentions both) that Fiat Chrysler will produce at the Warren (Mich.) Truck Assembly are entering a world much different than when the previous generation ended production in 1991.

 

"It dominated the premium SUV scene, really invented it and dominated it for 28 years, but that was 30 years ago," Ralph Gilles, FCA's head of design, told journalists during the preview.

Much has changed, and now Jeep will be the new kid on the block in the full-size SUV segments, including the luxury variant, where General Motors competes with the likes of its Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon and Ford has its Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

FCA's executives aren't shy about how they see these SUVs competing, specifically mentioning GMC, Cadillac and Range Rover.

"We are going to be pretty ambitious. We are very successful, as you know, with Jeep in North America. We want to be at least as ambitious with Grand Wagoneer and Wagoneer in North America. So (that) gives you a little bit of a scale," said Christian Meunier, who came to FCA last year as global head of the Jeep brand after leading Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti. We "want to be a key player in the segment."

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