But wait, didn't Jeep's CEO say the opposite just a month ago?
A lot can change in the span of a few weeks. For example, at the 2016 Paris Motor Show Jeep CEO Mike Manley told us that, “A sub Renegade is being explored and is something I’m really excited about.” Then a few weeks later at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show we spoke to Mark Allen, design chief at Jeep, who told us that he’s “not really working on a model smaller than the Renegade.” It’s possible that Allen was just staying tight-lipped and giving us the runaround. Manley seems to be the one who gives out the scoops after all.
So where does the truth sit? We’re inclined to believe that a model smaller than the Renegade is still in the cards. Jeep is on a roll at the moment and is looking to expand its global footprint. A new small crossover would help it do just that. But there are challenges. Allen told us that there are two design pillars at Jeep: the Cherokee and the Wrangler. The Wrangler inspired the design of the Renegade, so it makes sense that a new entry-level model would have to be inspired by the Cherokee so as to differentiate itself. But wait, didn’t Jeep just roll out the Cherokee-inspired Compass? Yes, yes it did. Is there really room in the lineup for two almost-Cherokees?
Another challenge is in designing such a car to appeal to Americans. Despite being a global brand, Jeep’s head designer told us that he didn’t compromise when it came to the look of the Compass. The automaker is “exporting America,” and any new Jeeps have to appeal to folks on the home front first before the sensibilities of Europeans, the Chinese, etc… are taken into account. Bite-sized SUVs were a thing 20 some years ago—as in all the tiny off-roaders Suzuki made—but will Americans buy into a tiny Jeep with limited cargo capacity? So long as it's priced right and comes in a Trailhawk spec, we think the answer is yes.