The Italian Giornale Lucano (“Lucan newspaper”) reported that American Jeep engineers and managers have visited, for the first time, the Melfi plant in Italy which will build the upcoming “B-Jeep,” an upcoming subcompact AWD vehicle. Engineering for this vehicle was truly international, according to prior statements and interviews, with the basic Fiat 500X platform as the starting point, modified dramatically by Chrysler’s Chennai, India and Auburn Hills engineers.
The Chrysler team from Detroit was led by Chris Elliott, and explained features of the car to around a thousand workers from the Uilm union, who were seeing it for the first time. The car is part of Fiat/Chrysler’s attempt to move up to 2 million vehicles in 2016, from around 1.2 million in 2013. The article claimed that there are plans to make up to half a million Jeep B-SUVs and Fiat 500Xs in 2015; in 2012, Fiat sold 154,461 small SUVs.
The new SUV seems small, especially compared with a Wrangler, but is much closer in size to the original Jeep military vehicles. It will almost certainly be a steel-roof design, rather than a CJ/Wrangler-like open-top, as in the artist’s rendition above.
The article also noted that the 500X had been planned for a 2012 release but management sent it back for further development. The car is just a few inches longer than the 500L, and will be sold in both front and all wheel drive, roughly replacing the Fiat Sedici. The two vehicles may share more than previously expected, but that might indicate more that the 500X has been redesigned to gain the capabilities of the Jeep, than that the Jeep is a mere rebadge/restyling.
Nagesh Basavanahalli, managing director of Chrysler India and head of the Chennai technical center, told IndianAutosBlog that the new Jeep was “a brand new platform… The Jeep customer has unique tastes: go anywhere, do anything, be available. … the bottom line is it will be a true Jeep. It will be a Jeep, and it will be on the right platform.”