FCA Betting on New Renegade SUV To Make Jeep Global

Jan 29, 2015 04:00 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma


Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has some ambitious goals for the recently merged company, and the Jeep brand could help further those targets when the new Renegade launches in March.

Gunning for a fourth consecutive year of growth, Jeep is offering its new Renegade subcompact crossover at a golden moment when the falling cost of crude oil is driving down fuel prices, causing consumers to flock to sport utility vehicles again.

"It's really kind of perfectly positioned in the market," KBB.com analyst Karl Brauer told Bloomberg. "You've got low gas prices, it's an SUV and it's the Jeep brand, which is well regarded, locally and globally."

FCA has retooled facilities in Italy to produce the Jeep Renegade and other models for exportation to the United States; as the euro faltered against the dollar, FCA turned a profit in Europe in the fourth quarter for the first time since 2007.

While Marchionne expects FCA to be in the black in all markets this year, he has also warned investors to be cautious.

"I'm not opening any bottles of champagne."

By 2018, Jeep wants to move 1.9 million vehicles, which would nearly double yearly sales compared with 2014--part of FCA's five-year plan to furtherJeep as a global brand.

The Renegade, which FCA hopes will mirror the 2013 Jeep Cherokee's success, is the first new model in Jeep's lineup since the Compass compact SUV in 2007. Built on the same platform as the Fiat 500X, the new Renegade will compete in its segment with the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V.

"Renegade is a completely clean sheet of paper," Mike Manley, chief of the Jeep brand, told Bloomberg. "But I hope we also come in with consumer credibility in terms of the brand and what we're able to do. Ultimately, the market is the judge."

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