Friday, July 11, 2014

Willys Travels the Globe

What began in battle but is now built for better times, Jeep's tire tracks span the entire globe.  This 4x4 slab of sturdy craftsmanship first left its mark on the battlefields of Europe. Now even the most unlikely countries have been branded by this unique American masterpiece. 

After World War II, the US sold or gifted many of their Willys Jeeps to the Philippines. Not looking a gifted horse in the mouth the savvy Flipinos took us one better and flipped the Jeep notion into the most popular mode of transportation in the country. "The Jeepney", a combination of Jeep and Jitney (a small franchised bus) has transformed the way Jeeps are viewed today. The Filipinos injected innovation into these Jeepney's by stripping down and altering their decor. Canopies for better shade and air made a new convertible top and the fresh painted bodies in vibrant colors and the added kitsch elements made the style a hit with civilians. The simple long bench seating was up close and personal. The passengers crammed to fill the small buses and after a short trip the riders were either best buddies or they leapt off the vehicle tearing at their faces in a claustrophobic fit.  The best part of the Jeepney story is the ingenuity of a culture reinterpreting a wartime design and blending this new American idea into their culture and lives. In a strange twist of affairs the Jeepney became so popular (its image was used by the Philippines for the 1964 World's Fair) that the government regulated its use to only bus transportation. Weird. 

Converting used military Jeeps as a way to bum your pals around the rugged Philippine terrain evolved into a national symbol. Just another way that Jeep has changed the way we drive.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2018 Jeep Wrangler to Focus on Fuel Econonmy

Just the Facts:
  • The redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler will focus on fuel economy and weight reduction, according to Mike Manley, president and CEO of the Jeep brand.
  • Innovations in vehicle structure and engines are expected to boost MPG without hurting capability.
  • "We have to make sure that vehicle survives," Manley said on Thursday at a Chrysler product event.

CHELSEA, Michigan — Jeep boss Mike Manley said the automaker needs to find innovative methods to reduce weight and boost fuel economy in the redesigned 2018 Jeep Wrangler in order to meet stiff MPG regulations without weakening capability.
In a wide-ranging interview with reporters during a Chrysler product event at the proving grounds here, Manley said the company is attempting to boost Grand Cherokee production, expects Land Rover to develop a new model targeted at Wrangler and said the Jeep Cherokee is a candidate for a diesel engine.
Chrysler Group is in the process of developing the redesigned Wrangler, focusing on fuel economy, weight reduction and capability, he said.
"We must be innovative in terms of what we do for the next Wrangler because clearly we have to make sure that vehicle survives into the future," Manley said. "It is vital for the brand."
Federal regulations require automakers to boost the fuel economy of their vehicles annually through 2025.
The 2014 Jeep Wrangler 4WD with a 3.6-liter V6 engine and either a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic transmission returns 17 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.
"You will see continued improvements in powertrains," he said. "It is a major focus for us. We have a lot of experts working on this project."
Manley said the redesigned Wrangler will have its own platform, unlike the Chrysler 200Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee that were developed on a Fiat platform.
"There will be no compromises," he said. "It has to be its own architecture. When I think about the next-generation Wrangler at this moment in time, we are the benchmark, so I want to push the benchmark even further."
The current Wrangler competes with the 2014 Nissan XterraToyota 4Runner and Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Manley expects Land Rover to develop a vehicle that is targeted at the Wrangler.
"I have no doubt that Land Rover will come into the fight with a product," he said. "They are an incredibly well-known brand on a global basis. It would be incredibly naive of me to not watch Land Rover very closely."
He did not suggest a possible time period for such a move.
Manley said a diesel engine will be considered for the Jeep Cherokee when the diesel take-rate for the Grand Cherokee doubles. It currently stands at 8 percent.
"I never rule anything out in terms of diesel for the Jeep brand," he said.

Monday, June 9, 2014

2015 Jeep Renegade

Renegade is no longer just an awful Styx song. This December/January the Jeep Renegade will be the new relative welcomed to the family. There's been skepticism surrounding the design but I'm embracing the new look with a bear hug. 

Sure it's small and lacking some machismo but it also introduces Jeep to the atypical driver. This design is urban and compact, packs a big punch, and the Trailhawk edition is a genuine off-road vehicle. (4WD with optimized traction for snow, sand, mud, etc.). The Renegade is lean and mean offering a 1.4 liter turbocharged (160 hp) or a 2.4 liter non-turbocharged (180hp) 4 cylinder engine. A Jeep that's economical with the balls of an off-road monster is something that I could really dig. I love how the Renegade bursts of military flair, like the Willys style headlights marked with the Jerry can "X".

Only time will tell how Renegade fairs in the bi-polar car market but Jeep owners should keep an open mind and cut the guy some slack, he may be Jeep's pesky little brother.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Jeep Goes Hollywood

We won't admit it but we are all influenced by celebrities. There's someone in Tinseltown that we relate to in some way. The Stars' gift is his image. Image is what also makes us chose a car. We need the vehicle to say something about us. 
Jeep's an outdoor vehicle with the chops to get us out of any jam the great outdoors throws around with style. This is why we buy Jeep. But say we see Justin Timberlake hop out of a souped-up Wrangler with a Mocha Soy Latte, designer jeans and hair plugs, does that change our perception of Jeep or does it register a few notches higher on our “cool scale”? More than likely this is not what most Jeep drivers connect with, but don’t let that bother you. Celebs are goofy and if anything it may make you realize that you actually have something in common with these arty eccentrics.

We know the celebs won't bother to make the trip to Jeep Jamboree USA and that’s okay, we really don't need their help to celebrate Jeep.  Anyone can live the Jeep lifestyle but when I see a Wrangler reworked like a botched face lift, I draw the line. Come on, don’t defeat the purpose of an off-road vehicle by going with shiny rims and thin tires. Ride high, put some BF Goodrichs on and surrender to the depth of all that is Jeep. Celebrities by nature think anything they do is cool and different, like they know something we don’t, but now I'm stating the case for some authentic Jeep conformity. Yeah, and I’m talking to you Sean Penn.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dear Jeep, Bring Back the Truck

Jeep without a Truck model is like my girlfriend forgetting her make-up. Will someone please explain to me how the best all-terrain vehicle in the universe does not manufacture a Truck. Whenever I see the concept photos I get as giddy as a pimply, prepubescent 13 year old boy taking a peek at Kate Upton in a two-piece. (To set the record straight, that still makes me excited).

The Mighty FC was the perfect combination of retro with
a touch of modern.
Jeep needs a truck in its repertoire. Do they think that customers won't pop for the cash? I work at a Jeep accessory company and once when a Wrangler truck conversion pulled into the lot, mobs gawked as if Lazarus had risen from the dead. I joined the crowd thinking this awesome set of wheels had to be a celebmobile. Jeep needs a look at a photo of this piece of charisma on wheels. 

Rumor has it that 2016's the year, but I'm not yet a believer. Jeep needs to wake up and give me a bad-ass truck with a cool retro look and all the bells and whistles like the Mighty FC and the J12 concept models from 2012.

Most car companies seem to balk at putting retro all-terrain vehicles into production for reasons like reputation, not too large a following, or a model too long off the road, but Jeep is different. Jeep is rooted in a deep tradition of timeless models and style that all Jeep owners know and recognize. My two cents worth says Jeep is and always will be the rebel of the car industry. Let it rip in 2016!