Past owners of Jeep — including American Motors, Chrysler, Daimler Daimler, Cerberus and now Fiat — have long talked about expanding Jeep sales outside the U.S., citing the brand’s international appeal as an authentic American icon. Their success was always limited, though, by the fact that most of the vehicles in the Jeep lineup were too big — or too thirsty — to suit the needs of consumers in global markets where small, fuel-efficient models are preferred.
Now comes the 2015 Jeep Renegade, the brand’s first subcompact sport-utility, to be unveiled today at the Geneva Motor Show. Its debut is a sign that Jeep’s new parent, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, is serious about tackling the rest of the world — not to mention the next generation of drivers. It is also the first Jeep to be built in a Fiat-owned factory since the Italian carmaker took control after Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy.
Barely larger than a Fiat 500L, this tiny Jeep has city-sized proportions designed to appeal to youthful and adventurous customers, whether they are maneuvering through a crowded urban setting or climbing a rock-strewn path.
“The all-new 2015 Jeep Renegade expands the brand’s product portfolio and targets the rapidly expanding small SUV segment around the globe with benchmark levels of efficiency and driving dynamics, while at the same time delivering best-in-class 4×4 capability that customers expect from Jeep,” said Mike Manley, Jeep brand president and CEO. “Renegade symbolizes the brand’s renowned American design, ingenuity and innovation, marking the Jeep brand’s first entry into the small SUV segment in more than 100 markets around the globe.”
Incorporating many features that trickled down from the larger Jeep Cherokee, like a unique nine-speed transmission and 16 different powertrain combinations, the new Renegade aims to satisfy consumers by delivering great driving dynamics on both smooth pavement and rutted trails. Its adjustable four-wheel-drive system has auto, snow, sand and mud modes (plus an exclusive rock mode on the Trailhawk model). For an open-air driving experience, drivers can easily remove and store the lightweight roof panels in the rear cargo area.
It also offers technology typically found on larger, more expensive vehicles, including more than 70 safety features, a large touchscreen and Chrysler’s embedded UConnect Access system, which can read text messages to the driver, call for roadside assistance or notify 9-1-1 in case of an emergency.
Chrysler sold a record 731,565 Jeeps worldwide last year, about two-thirds of them in the U.S.