Why would Fiat Chrysler be trying to merge two segments, SUVs and vans, which have remained largely independent of one another for years?
For starters, FCA is looking to expand the Jeep lineup, one of the most popular auto brands in the last ten years. When Fiat bought Chrysler after a structured bankruptcy in 2009, the then CEO, Sergio Marchionne, largely steered the future of his company by developing the Jeep brand. The strategy has been successful. In 2009, Jeep sales in the United States were less than 300,000 vehicles. Less than a decade later, Jeep sales in the United States are poised to exceed one million vehicles.
"The Jeep brand is as strong as ever," said Jeremy Acevedo, an automotive website analyst Edmunds. "This is the best-selling SUV in America and they are now going to pickup trucks to complete their wallet."
Jeep does not simply exploit the growing demand of the United States in pickup trucks. It's geared towards lifestyle buyers who want a smaller pick-up so they can throw things into the shelf, while having a model that stands out from other pick-ups in the market.
"This really gives them the opportunity to leverage this trucker who is looking for off-road capabilities as well as towing and crating capabilities," said Acevedo.
Will it work?
The reviews are divided, which is actually a good indication that Jeep may well get away with the Gladiator when it goes on sale early next year. Do not forget that in the automotive sector, polarizing style models have the best chance to stand out and conquer buyers.
"The brand must stand out and the lines of vehicles within this brand must stand out," said Kuniskis. "We think it absolutely breaks the mold."