Matt Prior: the Jeep pick up is the right car, at the right time
This week, our tester is excited about the idea of a Jeep pick up truck, but not about Subaru’s current line-up
Anyone else unreasonably excited by the idea of a Jeep pick-up truck? Or is it just me?
The Gladiator idea is not new for Jeep, although I’ll admit I’d largely forgotten this part of Jeep’s history. From the early 1960s, Jeep had a truck in its line-up, which lived on with various names until AMC, Jeep’s parent company, was bought by Chrysler, which already offered a strong line of Dodge pick-ups. So it canned Jeep’s competitor versions.
Not an uncommon business practice: buy rival, shut it down. But it’s also a weird move in the car business. There is never the guarantee that if a product becomes unavailable, people will choose yours instead. At least, not in an area like pick-ups, where there are a hell of a lot to choose from.
And if Volkswagen and PSA and plenty of car makers in the US have taught us anything, it’s that competing with yourself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can own several brands and give them subtle differences in economies of scale to commonise parts, reduce cost and thus give your rivals a harder time. And which of your models eventually sells? Doesn’t matter: you still get the money.
So the Jeep pick-up truck is back. Or will be, if the photos of this Wrangler-based truck with a five-foot-long load bed are anything to go by. The pics were leaked ahead of the car’s official unveiling at the LA motor show, and I think it’s a very cool thing.
Would it come here? Dunno. The UK doesn’t buy many Wranglers already and we don’t get Dodge trucks, obviously, because they’re massive and not terribly efficient. But what strikes me is that the creation of it is like when Skoda first launched an SUV: one of those ‘why aren’t we doing this?’ no-brainers. The right car in the right market with the right image, ideal for slinging a couple of bikes and a tent into the back and heading into the wilderness.
If you drew up a list of great Subarus, how many of the current line-up would make it in? Could you even name the entire current model series, or state the differences in purpose between an XV, a Forester and an Outback?
It has been a weird few years for Subaru in the UK, where it hasn’t coped well with the demise of the fast Impreza. That used to account for half its volume when sales hit highs of 12,500 in the late 1990s but, even so, it’s hard to explain how a company that makes more than a million cars globally sold fewer than 3000 in the UK last year.
But maybe the Impreza hangover has finally passed, because Subaru sales are up a quarter in a year that has been pretty dismal for most. As I understand it, the UK importer is having an easier time sourcing stock from Japan, but circumstances ought to suit its range too. Diesels are falling from favour, but four-wheel drive and SUVs are not, and I suspect the WLTP fuel consumption tests, which are meant to be more accurate, won’t do Subaru any comparative harm because its cars never seemed overly optimised for the old NEDC test. Iconic or not, then, the range is pretty well suited to 2018.
Although in South Africa, it has just announced a Diamond Edition WRX STi with 348bhp. Try not to get too distracted.
Source: Autocar Online