The 2015 Jeep Renegade will likely polarize long-time fans of the brand, but it's no doubt one of the biggest debuts of the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. We got a chance to sit down with Mike Manley, president and CEO of the Jeep brand, and ask five questions. Here's what he said.
You’re the boss of both Jeep and International operations, and this is probably the most internationally focused product in the range. Did the international group have more say in its design than in past programs?
What we did with this vehicle, more than before, was to get the regional input -- especially since we formed the regions back in 2011, giving them each their own product planning teams. But I wouldn’t necessarily say there was more or less international input because of this being a B-segment vehicle.
Do you expect the Renegade to sell in greater numbers outside or inside North America?
I will tell you that if you purely look at segment size, ignoring Latin America and China because they have their own peculiarities [crippling tariffs essentially mean that sales in these regions require local manufacture], and compare Europe to North America, you’d expect to see more sales in Europe. But I think that this vehicle will expand the segment in the U.S. quite significantly, because if you can get a vehicle that gives you the same sort of economics from a fuel-consumption perspective as a hatchback or sedan, but with the utility of an SUV -- I mean, as you saw today, the interior cabin space is pretty incredible for its size -- then I think you’ll find that people migrate to the segment that aren’t in it today. So even though if we purely do the paper exercise we’d say 65 percent Europe/35 percent North America, I think in reality it will be closer to 50/50.
How important is off-road capability in the perception of Jeep abroad
It depends which market you’re talking about. Every continent around the world has numerous Jeep clubs, dominated mainly by Wrangler owners. So there is what I would call a hard-core off-road group. But the Jeep brand stands for a number of things, so when we communicate about the Jeep brand we always talk about pushing yourself harder and experiencing things you’ve never experienced before. That resonates anywhere, regardless of the region.
So you don’t anticipate any more or less reluctance to accept a B-segment crossover Jeep in Europe?
I honestly don’t think we’re going to get much reluctance in the States, because you don’t have to go too far back in history to find the CJ that’s exactly the same size as this vehicle. Sure, Jeeps have grown over time, but I think the Renegade will be accepted in the U.S., so there’s no reason for me to believe it won’t be accepted internationally.
Can the Trail-Rated Rubicon Trailhawk manage the Rubicon Trail?
I am not so sure it will do the Rubicon, because obviously you’re talking about very extreme off-road conditions. The Cherokee, of course, went through the Rubicon, as did the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler. It may do -- I may take the opportunity to take it through there myself!
Alex Nishimoto contributed to this post