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Jeep dealers worried Grand Wagoneer could be too much, too late

Autoblog logo Autoblog 6/18/2018 Jonathon Ramsey
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On January 10, 2011, an Automotive News article quoted Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne saying, "It's time we gave the market an upper-scale Grand Wagoneer." Like Babe Ruth pointing a finger at the far stands, Marchionne next predicted our date with historical destiny: "You'll see it in January 2013." Had that happened, the Grand Wagoneer would been a grand slam. Seven years later, with various economic factors in flux and still with no Grand Wagoneer in sight, it seems some FiatChryslerdealers are worried the luxury three-row Jeep could appear after the SUV game is over or, at the very least, much harder to play.

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What got in the way of the Grand Wagoneer? Shifting plans for and the need to pour money into Alfa Romeo. The debate about what kind of vehicle the Wagoneer should be — a unibody Range Rover rival, or a body-on-frame Chevrolet Suburban foe. After that, what should the thing look like? And then there's Fiat Chrysler's North American manufacturing capacity, which can't shoehorn space for Grand Wagoneer production at the same time as it needs lines running for two Ram1500 model years. That last point is what could push Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer arrival to 2021.

Outside the company, at least one Bank of America Merill Lynch analyst believes that economic forces such as a shrinking car market, more competition, higher interest rates on more expensive cars, lower used car prices, and higher gas prices will soon bring an end to the "Goldilocks" phase of crossover mania. He isn't alone, with an IHS analyst saying the same thing three years ago, another IHS analyst diving deeper into the declining numbers two years ago, and three other analysts breaking down depressed used car prices. Fuel prices are anyone's guess, but those other pressures could squeeze retailers trying to sell high-end metal.

No one expects the Grand Wagoneer to fail, yet dealers don't expect the vehicle to practically sell itself. One dealer told AN, "We could have killed with [the Grand Wagoneer] if it had been available when they first told us about it, but it's a much tougher sell with interest rates and gas prices going up." Another dealer, perhaps more sanguine, said, "The Grand Wagoneer will still sell because it's a Jeep. But it would have been nice to have them already."

"Nice" is an understatement. One dealership was so excited about getting the new big Jeep that it wrote a blog post in 2015 announcing the Grand Wagoneer's arrival in 2018. Perhaps the fact that there are two Wagoneers on the way, a standard and a Grand version, plus a three-row Grand Cherokee, will bring all the boys to the yard come 2021, or whenever they show up.

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