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Published: Tuesday, 3/4/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Jeep unveils subcompact SUV at show

Chrysler hopes Renegade rebel enough to boost global appeal

BLADE NEWS SERVICES
The Renegade, at the Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, is built on a Fiat platform and already called the ‘cute brute.’ The Renegade, at the Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, is built on a Fiat platform and already called the ‘cute brute.’
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GENEVA — The new Jeep Renegade was unveiled Tuesday at the Geneva Motor Show.

The Renegade is the company’s first subcompact sport utility vehicle. It will be assembled in Italy on a Fiat platform and will be available first in Europe in the fall and in the United States in late December or early January.

As the first of its kind, the Renegade — a smaller, tough Italian cousin to the Toledo-built Wrangler —already has been called the “cute brute” and “baby Jeep” of Chrysler Group LLC’s lineup. Company officials are hoping it will juice global growth as it delivers a big sales punch to Chrysler’s already prosperous U.S. lineup, which also includes the Toledo-built Cherokee, a compact SUV.

The Renegade will compete against other small, hard-to-define crossovers such as the Buick Encore, Kia Soul, Mini Countryman, and Nissan Juke. The Renegade, however, will be the only one of those SUVs or crossovers with off-road capability.

“I think it’s fantastic. It’s exactly what the baby Jeep should be,” said Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief of Cars.com, a Web-based car shopping site. “To me, it is something we don’t have yet in this market. It is a really small, trucky-looking vehicle.”

The small-crossover market is one of the fastest-growing segments in the world.

The Renegade, which was designed in the United States, will be sold in more than 100 markets worldwide.

The Renegade name should be familiar to Jeep enthusiasts because it’s been used to designate special trim levels for the CJ-5 and CJ-7 — predecessors to the Wrangler — and the Liberty. It also was the name of a concept vehicle displayed at the 2008 Detroit auto show. The 2015 Renegade will mark the first time the name has been used on its own model.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said interest in small crossovers and SUVs is growing rapidly in the United States. He predicted the Renegade will be at least as popular as the Buick Encore and Nissan Juke, if it is priced correctly.

Pricing has not been announced, but Mike Manley, the president and CEO of the Jeep brand, said the price will be competitive enough to entice not only consumers looking to buy a small SUV but attract those considering subcompact sedans or hatchbacks.

To get better mileage, the Renegade will have 16 engine and transmission configurations for different markets around the world, including the first nine-speed automatic transmission in a small SUV. Two diesel engines will be offered in Europe but not in the United States.

The Renegade mixes a rugged, outdoorsy feel that is part of the brand, combined with splashes of color and the latest technological interfaces to appeal to young buyers.

The vehicle includes dual pop-out roof panels, a return to the sun-roofs of yesteryear.



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