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by James Stanford

A new mini Jeep will not damage the brand’s tough image.

That’s the promise from Jeep president Mike Manley, who told CarAdvice that at least one version of its upcoming micro machine will be ‘trail-rated’, meaning it will have strong off-road capability.

The new model will take on models like the Skoda Yeti and upcoming Ford EcoSport in a new sub-small SUV segment when it arrives in 2015.

It will be produced in both right- and left-hand drive and is almost certain to be offered in Australia.

Various reports had suggested the baby Jeep would be built off the same base as the Fiat Panda, but Manley said that was not the case.

“It’s not off the Panda. It is a Fiat-derived platform, but we could have an hour discussing what is a platform, but let me say it is on Fiat technology,” he said.

The platform was not originally developed for off-road work, but Jeep is spending the money to make sure it can make it a reasonable distance off road.

“The base technology comes from existing platforms within Fiat. Then Fiat engineers and Jeep engineers make all of the appropriate changes to make a Jeep and that’s very important,” he said.

“We can do that because the way the technology has changed in the last few years in the way that we can do power take off units, how we can incorporate AWD, how we can do axle disconnects, all of those things.”

While it will be capable of some off-road work, the new mini Jeep won’t have the same level of off-road capability as models like the Wrangler.

“Each and every one of its segments has a different trail rating,” Manley said.

“Just by its very nature, you will never get a B (segment model like the new mini Jeep) as capable as your D (Cherokee).”

Manley did say the new Jeep would have best in class off-road ability. He said it was imperative that the new model could go off the beaten track.

“If we can’t make it trail-rated we won’t make it,” he said.

“The Jeep brand, in terms of its equity and value around the world is too precious to damage with a product that is not Jeep.”

The position comes after Manley ordered the Jeep Compass, which was not originally trail-rated to be given a significant revision so that it was.

The new mini Jeep will also be available as a more affordable front-drive model and will be offered with petrol engines and diesels for Europe.

Chrysler Fiat Australia managing director, Clyde Campbell, says the baby Jeep has huge potential in Australia.

Asked if it could be the biggest selling Jeep in the Australian line up, he said.

“If we get the positioning right, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be,” Campbell said.

Note: 2001 Jeep Willys2 concept pictured.




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