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How Do You Say “Jeep” in Mandarin?

January 15th, 2013 - 5:21 am

So it’s true after all — Jeep will be moving some production to China:

Marchionne said he will keep “the pillar cars of the Jeep (brand) in the United States. Wrangler is one. The Grand Cherokee is another. These are things that need to be protected because they represent the best and the essence of Jeep. If you tell me I cannot make a Patriot somewhere else, I might as well go out of the market.”

It’s always nice to find these things out after the election. It’s also nice to know that Jeep’s iconic vehicle (the Wrangler) and its full-size SUV will both still be made here in the USA. And anyway, the problem isn’t whether the Patriot gets built in Ohio or Guangdong or both place. The problem is that the Patriot exists at all. The Patriot should not be a Jeep. It isn’t a Jeep.

Back when the Germans were still running Chrysler Group, they were presented with two “soft roaders” as potential Jeep models. Neither should have worn the Jeep bade at all, because neither was Trail Rated. And off road is Jeep’s brand, even if most owners never take them any further away from pavement than the gravel parking lot next to the soccer field. Naturlich, given two bad choices, the Germans chose both.

The Patriot should have gotten a Dodge label. They could have made the Compass a Chrysler. Or they could have diluted Jeep’s priceless brand with just one soft-road model. But no: They built them both.

My grandfather drove almost nothing but Cadillacs for 40 years, except for one brief and regretted fling with Lincoln. I was visiting him one summer in the late 90s during the height of the SUV craze. And he came back from an oil change at the dealer, amazed by row after row of Escalades. “The lot was nothing but trucks,” he said. “I don’t even know what a Cadillac is anymore.” How does a company overcome the loss of its brand? Cadillac has been trying to do just that for more than a decade now, and still hasn’t recovered all its lost cachet. Maybe it never will.

The real damage has already been done to Jeep’s brand, no matter where they’re built.

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