Car News: Oversteer
The Jeep Wrangler Is a Car Manufacturer's Dream Car
So I was thinking the other day about the Jeep Wrangler, and I came to a conclusion: The Wrangler is an automaker's dream car. Every automaker wishes for a car like the Jeep Wrangler. There is no better car to sell, if you're an automaker, than the Jeep Wrangler. And I think most other car companies would give anything to have a car like the Jeep Wrangler. And yet, there is only one Jeep Wrangler.
This all got started the other day when a photograph of the next-generation Jeep Wrangler leaked onto the internet, and I looked at it for a while before I realized: This looks just like the outgoing Jeep Wrangler. I mean, it looks identical. There are a few little changes here and there, but mostly, this is the old Jeep Wrangler reincarnated. And yet, Jeep is going to call it the "next-generation" Wrangler -- and Jeep is going to sell 20 zillion of them.
And this is one reason why other automakers would give anything to have a Jeep Wrangler: Because it doesn't take much effort to keep it fresh.
Think about it. Since I was a child, the Jeep Wrangler has looked virtually identical. Yes, I get the differences between the TJ, and the YJ, and the JK, and blah blah blah -- but be honest. Compare it with the Honda Accord. That car looked very 1980s in the 1980s, very 1990s in the very 1990s, very 2000s in the 2000s, and it looks very 2010s today. The Wrangler still looks pretty similar to the old one. And yet, every time they update it, ever so slightly, they get quadrillions of fans lining up with cash in hand for the "new" Wrangler.
Which is another reason why the Wrangler is an automaker's dream car: It has incredibly loyal buyers.
I want you to think for quite a while about all the other cars on the market, and try to imagine one single vehicle with buyers who are more loyal than people with Wranglers. Seriously, these people are obsessed. They lift them, and modify them, and get four of them, and take pictures with them, and drive them everywhere, and post on the forums, and start clubs. They'd buy a Jeep Wrangler if it looked like a wheeled tennis shoe.
NOBODY else is like this with cars. You think Toyota Camry buyers are this loyal? Honda Pilot owners? Of course not! I can promise you this: Even the most satisfied Honda Pilot owner would've walked away from the purchase in 10 seconds if there was a major Toyota Highlander sale going on that day. A Jeep Wrangler owner wouldn't walk away if there was a nuclear attack coming -- largely because a Jeep Wrangler owner would probably want to go off-roading in the aftermath.
And speaking of loyalty, here's another amazing benefit of the Jeep Wrangler: It has incredible resale value. Jeep barely touches these things for a decade at a time -- which would be a cardinal sin in the world of midsize sedans or compact cars -- and people still pay tremendously close to the sticker price for used ones. It's incredible! A new Wrangler is worth like $32,000, and a 4-year-old one is worth like $27,000. How is this even possible?!
The Wrangler also benefits Jeep in another way: It gives credibility to the brand's other models. If any other car company rolled out the Grand Cherokee, it would be a normal family vehicle. But Jeep does it, and it's "cool" and "off-roady" because it's a Jeep. In fact, we have proof of this: Dodge sells an even more practical version of the Grand Cherokee as the Durango, and nobody buys it. It's not cool or off-roady enough. And don't think for a second the Wrangler doesn't have a LOT to do with that image.
So when you think about it, the Wrangler really is an automaker's dream car. It requires minimum investment from Jeep. They redesign it, ever so slightly, every decade. It returns maximum benefit. It has legions of loyal fans, and it touts amazing resale values. And it even serves to increase the desirability of Jeep's other models. It's an amazing car, the Wrangler, and I suspect every other automaker wishes they could have it. Unfortunately, as Jeep has told us so many times ... there's only one.
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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