Tuesday January 31, 2017
By Richard Bosselman
SPECULATION that tardy sales have spurred a significant price drop for the for the smallest Jeep yet is not being answered by the brand.
Instead, franchise holder Fiat Chrysler New Zealand is putting a positive spin in respect to its determination to reposition the Renegade, which according to industry data accrued just 68 registrations between launch in March and the end of 2016, suggesting they are making a good thing even better.
However, the rejig might not be considered so positively by those early adopters of the sole derivative that has so far featured in force, the flagship Trailhawk.
Initially a heady proposition at just $10 short of $53,000 – because almost examples arrived with leather, regardless it was listed as a $3000 option - a price and specification realignment means it has effectively become $8000 cheaper.
Now positioned at $44,990 plus on-roads, the flagship sits $5000 above a 1.4 Limited, a front-drive model with a 103kW/230Nm engine from Fiat’s road car division.
The baby-engined model effectively become a new alternate because, while listed as available previously, only one was ever imported, MotoringNetwork has learned. That status also affected the Sport, a 1.6 in manual and auto: None of those were ever delivered to NZ and it is now no longer mentioned.
All Renegade volume to date has configured in Trailhawk format, which comes with a 2.4-litre Tigershark engine, making 129kW and the same torque as the new MultiAir unit, and in four-wheel-drive.
The new powerplant comes with a six-speed dual dry clutch unit whereas Trailhawk continues with a nine-speed automatic that has been subject to recall actions that have, in the main, required software changes. The box is from supplier ZF and also goes into Land Rover and Honda vehicles.
The new pricing’s permanence is uncertain as the Auckland-based distributor is calling this a “limited time” process.
For now, at least, the reshuffle leaves the car matching far more closely against like-sized alternates that Jeep’s local boss, David Smitherman, once suggested his brand didn’t need to directly price against even though they would likely be considered challengers by consumers.
However, his office also conceded at launch time that the product was also being hit by unfavourable exchange rates. The cost of shipping out of Italy cannot have helped, either.
The baby Jeep’s slow progress is not in tune with the market condition. The compact and small sports utility/crossover sector has been a real sales hot spot and a press release from the brand suggests the car has shown “New Zealand what a real compact SUV should be”, official motor industry registration counts suggest Kiwis haven’t cared much for it.
The Jeep count, compiled from NZTA data, is a poor showing compared to the Mazda CX-3 (968 last year), the Mitsubishi ASX (1569) and even Ford’s far-from-impressive EcoSport (394), which cumulatively in our market span from $31,195 to $38,595 in front-drive form, and $36,695 to $42,595 in four-wheel-drive.
It was also knocked out of the park by larger fare - Honda’s CRV (502), Hyundai Tucson (2650), Kia Sportage (3061) and Subaru XV (374) – which it has competed against on price until now.
In announcing the cuts, Smitherman renewed insistence the Renegade was well-suited to this country.
“Its compact external dimensions make it ideal for getting our crowded urban environments, its roomy interior has the space for most needs and its superb four drive system means it can meet the demands of our outdoor, go anywhere lifestyle.
“Add that it’s a Jeep, with everything that that infers from legendary status to unique style and the Renegade is changing how Kiwis look at their automotive needs.”
The Limited comes with a touchscreen with Bluetooth and sat nav, has bi-xenon headlights, a nine speaker Beats stereo, heated front seat and steering wheel, 18-inch alloys and leather.
The Trailhawk continues with the same feature level as before, but now leather is standard.
Jeep saw Grand Cherokee and Wrangler volume increase last year, but lost ground with the Cherokee, Patriot and Compass. A completely new vehicle, nick-named ‘Compatriot’, to replace Patriot and Compass is out this year.
Jeep has also confirmed investment of around $NZ1.7 billion to build a Wrangler Ute, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. The investment also returns Dodge RAM production from Mexico to the US.
Jeep has been talking up its Wrangler ute since last year, when it announced the next-generation Wrangler would launch in 2018. More than that, we can expect to see a hybrid version of the Wrangler by 2022.
The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are large SUVs to be built on the same platform as the new Grand Cherokee but are totally new vehicles, not just trim lines.