Fiat Chrysler (NASDAQOTH: FIATY ) unveiled its all-new Jeep Renegade this past week in Geneva. It's set to go into production later this year, and will arrive at U.S. Jeep dealers early in 2015.
The Renegade is a Jeep, but it's a different kind of Jeep. First of all, it's small: Technically it's a sub-compact, making it the smallest Jeep SUV yet. Second, it'll be made in Italy, where Fiat Chrysler has extra production capacity suited for a vehicle of the Renegade's size. Third, while it'll be arriving in U.S. Jeep dealers early next year, it's really intended for overseas markets.
We mostly don't see them in the U.S., but subcompact SUVs are a Thing in some other parts of the world. Entries like Ford's (NYSE: F ) EcoSport, which is based on the Fiesta's platform, are very popular in some emerging markets -- and represent a growing segment in Europe.
As Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, the Renegade is intended to bring the Jeep brand -- still the most famous SUV brand of all -- to those markets in a big way. And while it might be more quirky-looking than rugged-looking, rest assured that the Renegade is available in a proper Trail Rated version.
A transcript of the video is below.
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John Rosevear: Hey Fools, it's John Rosevear. Fiat Chrysler this week took the wraps off the all-new Jeep Renegade. This is a first for Jeep: It's a sub-compact SUV. The company showed it off at the Geneva International Motor Show on Tuesday.
So why does the world need a sub-compact Jeep? Well, first of all, the new Renegade differs from other Jeeps in a couple of significant ways. It's still a Jeep, it does come in Trail Rated versions, but this Jeep will be made in Italy, and it's mainly aimed at buyers outside of the U.S. Jeep seems to be thinking that younger buyers in Europe and in emerging markets who are looking at other sub-compact SUVs will be drawn to this offering from what is still the most famous SUV brand of all.
Jeep has never before played in this part of the market, but there is a market here, though we don't see much of it in the U.S. The Nissan (NASDAQOTH: NSANY ) Juke is part of this, and in Europe there's a Peugeot (NASDAQOTH: PUGOY ) and a Renault (NASDAQOTH: RNSDF ) as well as the Ford EcoSport, which is a tiny SUV based on the Ford Fiesta platform, and the Opel Mokka, which is a European-market cousin of the Buick Encore SUV, so it's a little bit bigger.
And this is a booming market, all over the world. According to the Wall Street Journal, global sales of small SUVs have more than doubled over the last four years, 1.8 million were sold last year, and analysts at LMC Automotive expect that to climb to 3.3 million by 2016.
But unlike some of these other vehicles, the Jeep Renegade will be sold here in America. It's expected to be in U.S. Jeep showrooms early next year.
So what do we think of this little Jeep?
Well, it should be a legit Jeep, at least in the Trail Rated versions. I haven't seen it in person yet, I'm looking at the photos that Jeep has provided, so it's hard to tell just how small it is up close. But Jeep says that the Renegade shares some of the new Cherokee's 4x4 technology, including the Selec-Terrain system, and it has a disconnecting rear axle and power take-off unit, similar to the system on the all wheel drive versions of the new Chrysler 200, the idea is that it goes into front-wheel-drive mode when you're just cruising on the highway in order to save gas.
They expect that the Renegade Trailhawk 4x4 model will deliver best-in-class off-road capability, yes it's Trail Rated, with skid plates and tow hooks and Jeep Active Drive Low and a higher ride hight and up to 205 millimeters or 8.1 inches of wheel articulation, so it's got the Jeep bona fides. There are a whole bunch of engines being offered and several different transmissions, Jeep says there are 16 power train options in all, but they'll be customized for different markets around the world and we don't know yet which ones will be offered in the U.S. There are two diesels in the mix, though, along with several gas engines, so we'll see.
Thanks for watching, and Fool on.