The 2015 Renegade is expected to be a gateway vehicle for the Jeep brand, according to Chrysler’s design chief.
Ralph Gilles, Chrysler senior vice president of product design, said that after buyers experience the small sport-utility vehicle, they’ll keep coming back to the Jeep brand.
“People will keep coming back once they get a taste of this thing,” he said Tuesday morning during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2014 MICHauto Summit in Detroit.
Renegade production started in July at Fiat SpA’s plant in Melfi, Italy. It is scheduled to arrive in European showrooms Oct. 1, according to Jeep spokesman Todd Goyer. The U.S. is expected to get its first Renegade models at the end of this year, followed by full inventories in early 2015.
The Renegade is Jeep’s first subcompact SUV. Gilles said it is an example of how Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, announced after Fiat SpA took control of Chrysler Group LLC earlier this year, is leveraging its assets in Italy and the U.S. to create new vehicles.
Gilles, who has worked for Chrysler for 22 years, said one of the most interesting things about designing the subcompact Renegade, which will also be sold in China and other countries, was combining traditional Jeep aspects with new ideas and designs from the company’s Italian designers.
“We took the best of both worlds,” he said, adding the Renegade is based on a Fiat platform, engineered in the U.S. and developed and built in Italy.
When launching the Renegade, Jeep CEO Mike Manley defined the vehicle as a vehicle for a new generation of Jeep buyers.
The average buyer of the small SUV, or subcompact segment, tends to be younger thanks to the segment traditionally being one of the least expensive.
Gilles said a “Millennial crew” of designers took the lead because they understand what younger buyers want.
“They designed it for themselves in a way,” he said. “When you look at the character of the vehicle, I think it has a percent blend of fun and seriousness and strength and playfulness.”
The Millennial generation is loosely defined as someone born in the early 1980s to early 2000s. At 74 million in the U.S., they are expected to be the largest generation since the Baby Boomers.
Jeremy Glover, a Jeep design studio exterior designer and member of the generation, said designers wanted to make give the Renegade a modern feel, but still pull design cues from the Wrangler and the first 1941 Willy’s Jeep.
“It’s a brand-new car, so we looked at all sorts of forms,” said Glover, who joined Gilles on stage for a question and answer.
Classic Jeep characteristics include circle headlights, trapezoidal wheel arches and seven-slotted grille. They combine with new features like military-inspired “X” design in the tail lamps and a new roof panel system that allows buyers to open up the vehicle similar to a Wrangler.
Gilles also spent some time during his speech discussing how Detroit’s image is changing for recruiting talent. He said young people want to come to Detroit.
“It’s getting easier (to attract talent),” he told reporters following his speech. “It was a problem. The image was more a problem than anything else.”
Gilles, who moved to Detroit 26 years ago, said the cost of living, character of the city and car culture are really appealing to those who want to “be a part of the solution.”