On December 23, an Allpar source wrote that the Jeepster — the presumed name for the upcoming mini-Jeep to be built in Italy — could be produced with the ZF nine-speed automatic transmission. In the January 2, 2014 edition of Quattroruote, that publication proclaimed that not only would the small crossover use the nine-speed, but it would also have Jeep’s five-position traction control.
The source who brought the article to our attention said that the high-end outfitting might be meant as part of a strategy to keep Jeep as a premium brand in Europe. Those interested in saving money and getting a vehicle of similar size without off-road capability can get a Fiat 500X. Other observers have pointed out that the Jeep has a taller stance than the Fiat, with greater ground clearance.
This is not the first Jeep to be built outside the United States and imported in; under AMC, for some years, Jeep Wranglers were built in Canada but not the United States.
Given the costs of making vehicles durable in challenging terrain (particularly with regard to torsional stresses) and providing advanced traction control systems, some level of premium pricing is needed if Jeeps are to retain off-road credibility. It may have seemed logical to go the next step and equip the vehicles with higher-grade systems and trim throughout, raising the price more but also putting them into a more profitable category. Land Rover has charged a high premium for its vehicles in the United States, despite many years of having quality ratings far below Jeep; with production in high-quality, high-cost facilities (Melfi, for Jeepster), Jeep may be positioning itself as the Lexus of off-roaders, at least in Europe and India.
Production is still some time away, and 500X is likely to start up first.