Last month, I was invited to attend an automotive press lunch hosted by Chrysler. There, we’d be given a special “up close” look at the new-for-2015 Jeep Renegade that’s been exciting people (including me) since its debut at Geneva earlier this year. It was a nice lunch, and we got a chance to speak directly with the Renegade’s stylists and some of ChryCo’s marketing team. Their job, from what I could tell, was to convince everyone present that the Renegade is “a genuine Jeep” while, at the same time, get them to ignore the fact that the new Jeep Renegade will be built in Italy and imported to the US.
For my part, I didn’t even know that Jeep was planning to build the new Renegade in Italy. I knew the little SUV was based on the Fiat Panda 4×4 platform, sure, but based on and built in are two very different things – and I’m not sure that a Jeep built in Italy can be “a genuine Jeep”.
Let’s talk about a genuine Jeep experience, shall we? Come with me to September, 1943, just after General Harold Alexander’s 15th Army Group took Sicily but before Operation Avalanche took the mainland. Imagine you’re an Italian soldier, dutifully “defending” Italy while fighting for Hitler’s Axis powers (oh yeah, I went there). Imagine, then, that you’re hiding in a trench dug up in the hills – and you’re feeling pretty good. You have both good cover and the high ground, and the Americans’ heavy mobile infantry can’t get up the soft sand and- HOLY HELL WHAT IS THAT!? IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US!!
“That” was a Willys-Overland Jeep, a light, quick, go-anywhere vehicle that was instrumental in the Allies’ decisive ground victories in both the European and Pacific theaters (yes, that’s on Jeep’s blog). It wasn’t a marketing victory or a sales victory, but a military victory that established the Jeep as the go-to off roader.
That, kids, was the first time the Italians had a genuine Jeep experience.
Now, try to imagine that scene playing out with Renegades instead of Willys. Even better, try to imagine Jeep’s new Italian owners running a commercial where American troops blast their way across Italy, mowing down actors playing the parents and grandparents of Fiat’s current employees in a bid to sell a few more Jeeps Stateside.
Despite the 7-bar grille motif appearing in the windshield, in the headlights, and in numerous places throughout the Renegade’s interior, I, for one, have a hard time picturing either of those things. Perhaps that’s why I find it so difficult to take this Made in Italy Panda in Renegade’s clothing seriously as a real Jeep. I feel bad saying that, too, because I really did enjoy the food.
2015 Jeep Renegade – An Up Close Look
Original content from Gas 2, with special thanks to Chrysler.