At Stellantis’ Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan, a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L climbs a rocky hill.
CHELSEA, Mich. (AP) — Jim Morrison smiles as he hears rocks scraping against the undercarriage of the Jeep he’s driving.
“The most important thing for us at Jeep is to prove our capability,” he says as he climbs a rock hill at a Stellantis, Jeep’s parent company, proving ground. “That’s why we took a little longer than everyone else. First and foremost, it had to be a genuine Jeep.”
Morrison is driving the 2021 Grand Cherokee L, which is the vice president of Jeep’s North American operations. It’s a new model for the brand, set to hit dealerships next week as Jeep’s first three-row vehicle in more than a decade.
Jeep is hoping to attract new buyers and retain current owners who previously had to leave the brand if they wanted a larger vehicle by expanding the Grand Cherokee from a two-row to a three-row SUV. It’s a key growth area for the brand, with new competitors like the well-received Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade SUVs on the way.
“It’s going to really help us grow the top-end of the business, which is good for attracting new customers,” Morrison said, noting that the Grand Cherokee already has a customer loyalty rate of nearly 50%.
“That’s good for the company’s profitability.”
According to Cox Automotive data, the Grand Cherokee’s average pricing is always near the top of the midsize SUV segment when compared to many vehicles with three rows.
According to Matt Degen, an editor with the automotive data and insights company, adding the Grand Cherokee L will raise the SUV’s average pricing and profits even higher.
“They needed this vehicle,” he explained. “For the brand, making the Grand Cherokee a three-row SUV is a no-brainer.”
Jim Morrison, vice president of Jeep North America, speaks during a launch event for the new Grand Cherokee L SUV in Detroit on June 11, 2021.
The Grand Cherokee L will have a starting price of between $37,000 and $66,000. The top-end price is about $9,000 more than the current vehicle’s comparable two-row model.
According to Cox, the average price paid by a consumer for a Grand Cherokee last month was $45,694. That’s nearly $2,600 more than the average midsize SUV.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic last year, Jeep’s U.S. sales had surpassed 900,000 SUVs for two years in a row.
Degen believes that with the introduction of the Grand Cherokee L, as well as the larger Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs later this year, Jeep’s domestic sales could surpass one million in the near future.
Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, is ramping up Jeep production in the United States significantly. The automaker spent $1.6 billion converting a former engine complex into a full assembly plant for the Grand Cherokee 2021. It was the first new assembly plant in the city in 30 years.
Workers at Stellantis’ Detroit Assembly plant, where the new 2021 Grand Cherokee L, a three-row SUV, is manufactured.
The automaker is also expanding production of the Wagoneer models at a plant in suburban Detroit, bringing the total number of Jeep plants in the United States to six.
“Jeep is one of the crown jewels of automotive brands,” Degen explained. “The Jeep brand is extremely important to Stellantis overall, particularly for American sales.”
Jeep’s lineup is expected to grow from six to nine vehicles by the end of this year, including the Grand Cherokee L and Wagoneer vehicles. New plug-in hybrid models, such as the current Wrangler 4xe and the upcoming Grand Cherokee, are not included.
The 2021 Grand Cherokee L is recognisable as a Jeep, but it has a new exterior design with horizonal LED daytime running lights, a wider seven-slot grille, and other design elements seen on the company’s Grand Wagoneer SUV concept last year.
Jeep Grand Cherokee L 2021
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
The vehicle is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that produces 290 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque as standard. A 5.7-liter V-8 engine with 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque will also be available.
The Grand Cherokee L’s interior includes 8.4-inch or 10.1-inch touchscreen displays, as well as a 10.25-inch frameless digital driver information screen behind the steering wheel. It comes in six-seat and seven-seat configurations.
In addition, the company intends to introduce hands-free driving technology in the vehicle in late-2021 on 2022 model-year vehicles.