Some of that Fiat influence is sneaking into Jeep, and more of it than expected. The brand is planning to launch a supermini SUV to compete against the MINI Cooper and Audi A1 (and, by extension, the Fiat 500) that will be even smaller than the Wrangler, while aping its macho styling cues.
“There’s definitely space in the market for a Jeep-brand B-segment SUV,” said Mike Manley, Jeep CEO. “We’re already working on a project that will meet that need, and expect to have the car on the road by 2013.”
Fiat would provide the powertrains, most likely 1.3- and 1.6-liter diesel engines and the 1.4-liter Multiair gasoline engine. While the vehicle would be front-wheel drive, higher-end models would be available with four-wheel drive as “an absolute necessity,” said Manley, labeling the Fiat Grande Punto as the vehicle most likely to donate its platform.
Styling-wise, the mini-Jeep would ape the styling of the second-smallest Jeep, the Wrangler, with “a slightly softer and smaller updated version of the Wrangler’s iconic grille and headlight design and you’ll have a good idea of how its front-end should look,” said Manley.
The Jeep would be aimed at younger buyers who would be active-lifestyling their way into a Nissan Juke; the surge of small crossover SUVs would be helped by the recognition of the Jeep brand, said Manley. It could certainly see its ways to American shores after its initial release in Europe.