- Fiat Chrysler will unveil the resurrected Jeep Grand Wagoneer and a new hybrid electric version of the brand's flagship Wrangler SUV online at 9 a.m. Thursday.
- Both vehicles represent a new market for the quintessential American brand and its parent company,.
- They are white space products for the automaker to increase market share and profits.
The future direction of Jeep will be unveiled Thursday with the debuts of two new SUVs: a concept version of the resurrected Grand Wagoneer and a hybrid electric version of the brand's flagship Wrangler SUV.
Both vehicles represent new opportunities for the quintessential American brand and its parent company, Fiat Chrysler, which has been slow to adopt electric vehicles and expand Jeep into large SUVs. They are new segments for the automaker to increase market share and profits.
The Grand Wagoneer concept is expected to represent the future design and technology of production versions of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs, which are due in showrooms next year. Concept vehicles often also set a new design direction for the brand overall.
"The big thing for Jeep is that it does put them in a segment they are not competing in," said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. "That's probably the strongest move for them to increase sales and continue to grow the brand. It makes sense for Jeep to go into this space, and it should be a profitable space."
The vehicles are expected to compete in the mainstream and luxury large SUV segments. Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley, when leading the Jeep brand in 2016, said the top-end Grand Wagoneer could top $100,000.
It's unclear whether the Grand Wagoneer, which was last produced in 1991, will be a separate model or a high-end trim of the Wagoneer, which was discontinued in 1983.
A company spokesman on Friday declined to comment on the pricing as well as the positioning of the long-awaited vehicles.
The resurrection of the Grand Wagoneer — best known for its wood paneling — was first confirmed by Manley's late predecessor, Sergio Marchionne, in 2011. Since then, the vehicle has been delayed several times due to changes in product plans and other issues.
Jeep has been releasing teaser images of the Grand Wagoneer concept as well as videos of the Wrangler hybrid electric SUV on social media ahead of their debuts. Both vehicles will be unveiled at 9 a.m. Sept. 3 on Jeep's YouTube and Facebook pages.
The Wrangler will be a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, which means it will still have a traditional internal combustion engine and an electric powertrain. It is the first of its kind for Jeep in the U.S. The vehicle will feature a "4xe" badge, a play on Jeep's reputation as a 4×4 off-road brand.
The company has said all of its Jeep models — traditionally known as gas-guzzling SUVs — will offer full or partial electrification by 2022. The company already has plug-in hybrid versions of its small Renegade and Compass SUVs in Europe.
"Going for the PHEV space for them is expanding the company's electrification," Brinley said. "They're behind others … [Fiat Chrysler] decided to let that market mature a little bit before getting into it."
The Wrangler 4xe is expected in U.S. showrooms in December, according to the company.
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