Credible sources say Great Wall is looking closely at Jeep. Is that a good thing?

APPARENTLY, GREAT WALL is interested in Jeep. Reuters reported that a Great Wall official said “With respect to this case, we currently have an intention to acquire.” That led Jeep to say:

“In response to market rumours regarding a potential interest of Great Wall Motors in the Jeep brand, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (“FCA”) (NYSE: FCAU MTA: FCA) confirmed that it has not been approached by Great Wall Motors in connection with the Jeep brand or any other matter relating to its business.”

It is worth noting that the release says only that Great Wall didn’t approach Jeep, and that means presumably officially. It doesn’t say that Jeep didn’t approach Great Wall, and of course there are all sorts of unofficial channels. We’ll leave that there, as matters of this nature are all about denial and rumour until the deal is actually done and then stories change overnight.

The bigger question is whether a Great Wall takeover would be good for Jeep or not, and that’s a pertinent question for us offroad people as Jeep is just about the only pure 4×4 manufacturer left…except for Land Rover. And it to Land Rover we look for an example of what could happen.

The parallels between Jeep and Land Rover are many. Both are specialist offroad maqures, with storied histories going back to the birth of the 4×4 as we know it. Of course, the first Land Rover was based on Jeep, but it wasn’t far behind. Since then, both marques have developed into profitable niches. The Wrangler has perhaps one of the greatest cult followings of any vehicle on the planet, and Land Rover has had hits with Range Rover, Discovery and of course the venerable Defender. Both manufacturers have changed hands numerous times – Land Rover most recently from British Aerospace to BMW to Ford and its current owner since 2008, Indian mega-corp Tata. Jeep has had fewer owners, but still progressed in recent years from AMC to various versions of Chrysler.

In the case of both Jeep and Land Rover there are two truths; it doesn’t matter which mega-corp is the owner so long as there is one, as no niche company can live alone, and secondly the basic ethos and principles of the company do not need to change.

Proof is Land Rover, which had significant investment from Tata since 2008 and look at the results; new Range Rovers, Evoque, Discovery and more, making it the technological leader of the offroad industry. Land Rover people say that Tata basically gave them a mission – “lead the tech” – then shovelled money at them with a hand-offs approach to management. That approach has worked well.

Could and would Great Wall do something similar as an investment model with Jeep? It’s entirely possible, and to my mind, would be the smart approach.

So what would we enthusiasts like to see from a Great Wall controlled Jeep? Post your views below, but here’s mine.

  • Stop the roadcars – most Jeeps now are roadcars, and the ones with actual offroad cred have to be marked Trailhawk. I’d like to see every Jeep have a base level of offroad ability. Isn’t that what “Jeep” means? I don’t think a 2WD Cherokee roadcar is very Jeep.
  • Decide what you want to be – Land Rover have clearly decided to be the most technologically advanced offroaders. That’s good for them, and they focus on it. Jeep also need to pick something, and focus on it, because right now I don’t know what Jeep stand for, and whatever their current marketing slogan is does not count.  Could be utilitarian 4X4s, but that’s not really their heritage. Land Rover have locked up tech. I think I’d go for the most fun offroaders on the planet, as they already have that with the Wrangler. There needs to be some sort of Jeep-ness beyond visuals like a 7-slot grill, and right now I think the brand’s models are missing that common purpose. The world needs a 4WD equivalent of the MX-5 and Toyota 86, fun driving machines. How about it, Jeep?

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