Jeep Wrangler Remains a Big Hit for Chrysler

By: Lauren Woods

The apparent shift of the auto market to crossovers and small cars did not deprive Jeep's hardcore off-roader to continually enjoy its hot-selling status. The Jeep Wrangler is still flocked by aficionados who wanted nothing less than superb off-road performance.

With the shift of auto trend, some enthusiasts expect that the Chrysler Group's aces would be limited to on-roaders like the Jeep Compass. However, the smooth-riding on-roaders are outshined by the new hit from Jeep.

The new four-door 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, which has debuted at the New York Auto Show (NYIAS) in the previous year, is a serious, no-compromise piece of off-road machinery that can run errands as well. But it is not really designed for that.

The Jeep Wrangler is engineered to compete with larger off-road vehicles like the Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Hummer H3. The mini SUV has the same engine and transmission choices given to the short-wheelbase JK. The engine is also complemented by a to produce utmost performance. However, the Unlimited variant offers more options and equipment than any Wrangler variants.

Features of the SUV include standard electronic stability program and optional seat-mounted side airbags, navigation system, remote keyless entry, and the Sirius satellite radio.

Crossovers offer a smooth carefree ride, like cars. The Wrangler does not. Crossovers and cars are quiet. But the Wrangler is not. However, the Wrangler has features that crossovers are lacking. They include rollover cages, removable doors and windshields that can be folded and strapped to the hood. And these features make Wrangler standout from the rest of the vehicles in the market.

Consumer Reports, after testing the Wrangler Unlimited, gave it a score of 17 out of a possible 100 and this is the lowest score for any current model. The magazine also noted the vehicles' "dismal fuel economy." It also performed well in the standardized rock-climbing test. "Off-road capability remains extremely impressive," said the magazine in its April issue.

The appeal of the Jeep Wrangler could be ascertained by the fact that while the sales of other SUVs plummet, Wranglers are rushing off dealers lots. The Wrangler Unlimited's days-to-turn is 20 while the average vehicle overall is in excess of 60. The data was divulged by the Power Information Network.

For Chrysler Group's brands that include Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep, the success of the Jeep Wrangler is the most remarkable. According to the automotive Web site Edmunds.com, the average days-to-turn for Chrysler Group vehicles is 106 days.

How attractive is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited? Well, the Toyota FJ Cruiser, another serious off-roader, sells at half the volume of the Wrangler. In February, Jeep sold 9,240 Wranglers of both the two- and four-door types in February. The figures have increased by 63 percent over the same period last year.

Pricing also shows the strength of the four-door Wrangler. Six months after its introduction, the average price paid for a Wrangler Unlimited has increased, according to the Power Information Network. "It's very rare that the price of a new model goes up," said Tom Libby, an analyst with Power Information Network. "I think it shows the strength of the Wrangler name," added Libby.

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