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Partha Dutta, president and CEO of FCA India confirms Jeep is working on a 3-row SUV, an update on the Compass and a sub-four-meter SUV
Jeep India hasn't been the quickest to introduce new models, but that doesn’t mean new models aren’t in the pipeline. Dr Partha Datta, who took over the helm of FCA India as president and managing director last year, joined us on the evo Conversations and confirmed new models are very much in the pipeline with the first to hit the roads being the mid-life facelift for the Jeep Compass early next year. Soon after that will be the seven-seater SUV, the code-named ‘Low D 3-row’ SUV that industry sources tell us could be badged as the Grand Compass. The Wagoneer name is also being evaluated but that doesn't roll off the tongue easily. This 3-row SUV will be on a longer wheelbase than the Compass (think Tata Harrier and Tata Gravitas) and will go up against the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Skoda Kodiaq and Hyundai Tucson. The target will also be to eat into the volumes of the Toyota Fortuner and the ace up its sleeve will be the 2-litre diesel engine which the Tiguan Allspace and updated Kodiaq will not have.
The 3-row SUV will be followed by the much-needed sub-four meter SUV which will be the slotted below the Renegade. Here are more details on Jeep India’s new model offensive and you can watch the full conversation with Partha Datta on the @evoindia Instagram handle.
Dr Partha Dutta said the company is, “actively working on a three-row SUV”. Jeep does not have a three-row SUV in India right now and this new 7-seater SUV will enable Jeep to step up the ladder and take the fight to the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and Mahindra Alturas G4. The direct rivals though will be the monocoque-based SUVs like the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Skoda Kodiaq and the Hyundai Tucson that will be getting three-row seating in its next update. Dutta did not reveal any more details on this new SUV but we can confirm that this will not be the China-only Grand Commander, due to the lack of any commonality between the made-in-India Compass.
India will get the ‘Low D 3-row’ SUV that was announced as part of FCA’s 2018-2022 road map. This is based on the ‘Small Wide 4x4’ platform that also underpins the Compass, Renegade and Fiat 500X, thus making it cost effective to manufacture the new Grand Compass in India. The FCA facility in Ranjangaon near Pune will also be the base to export this new SUV to all right-hand-drive countries, as it already being done with the Compass.
Industry sources say this new SUV is tentatively badged the Grand Compass but there is resistance to the name, especially among the dealer community, to avoid any connection to the Compass and enable this to be positioned a clear segment higher. Sources indicate the styling will remain more or less identical to the Compass with only the nose and the taillamp adopting some cues from the Chinese Grand Commander. In profile the Compass and Grand Compass will look identical save for the longer rear doors courtesy the longer wheelbase. Expect the Grand Compass to stretch out the Compass’ wheelbase by around 150mm along with bigger wheels and more chrome and flashy bits to make it look more expensive. The Jeep Commander name was also explored but that is already being used by Mahindra so no go on that.
Original plans for this 3-row SUV was to launch by the second quarter of 2021 but with the Covid-19 lockdown things might get delayed by a few months. The plans though aren’t being shelved, as confirmed by Partha Datta.
The Compass is due for a mid-life facelift and while original plans were for the facelift to hit the showrooms by the first quarter of 2021, this might get pushed forward to Q2 2021 due to the lockdown. This not a full model change, the Compass is too new and still feels fresh enough not to warrant it. The facelift is very mild with the only noticeable difference being eyebrow LED DRLs and revised DRL lighting in the taillamps. There are tweaks to the 7-slot grille but it will all be rather minor including a new design for the alloy wheels.
Of significance will be the new interiors that the refreshed Compass will receive with a much larger floating screen dominating the dashboard. The small touchscreen of the Compass has been a bugbear among owners and this new infotainment with a new operating system will turn things around making for a far nicer cabin. We might also get to see steering-wheel paddle shifters for the automatic gearbox and maybe even the 9-speed automatic being offered across the diesel Compass range including the two-wheel-drive variants (if that hasn’t been done before).
Partha Datta confirmed that the company is “very actively working on and investigating a sub-four metre SUV.” Honestly, this is a no brainer for Jeep India. The sub-four metre and mid-size SUV segments are where all the action is at in India and Jeep India is unrepresented in either segment. It’s easy to think of Jeep as a premium niche manufacturer but you must remember FCA India has a huge manufacturing facility in Ranjangaon near Pune that has been built for mass-volume cars — which is what Fiats were!
A massive volume play is what the sub four-meter SUV will represent and this will not be the Renegade (even though the current Renegade is under four meters in length). This new sub 4-meter SUV will be based on the next generation Fiat Panda and 500 and the mother plant will be in Italy. Internally referred to as Urban UV, this will also have the option of 4x4, something that will set it aside from everything else in this segment. Italy is a mountainous country that gets plenty of snow and the Panda was always offered with 4x4 to deal with the winter months — an option that sold very well and even today you see plenty of ancient Panda 4x4s across the Italian countryside. As a brand shaper the 4x4 will be offered in India and there will also be a Trail Rated version. But the mainstay with be the FWD variants.
Don’t get to excited about this sub 4-meter SUV because the earliest we will see it is end of 2022. That is a long, long way away and what the automotive landscape will like in two years is anybody’s guess. At least the platform will be ready for electrification so if that is the trend then this new SUV could come in as a full electric, just like the new Fiat 500 has been launched as a full-electric to start with.