Ford, Jeep ratchet up off-road competition

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August 12, 2020

For the first time in decades, Jeep has a serious contender in the mass-market, off-road vehicle segment as Ford readies the launch of its Bronco lineup. While luxury brands such as Land Rover have offered alternatives for the Jeep Wrangler and its rock-crawling brethren, there’s been little competition for Jeep in the $50,000 or less world since 1996 when Ford discontinued the Bronco lineup.

The new vehicles, to be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant near Detroit, will be remarkably similar to the Wrangler – available in 2-door or 4-door versions that allow users to remove those doors for open-air driving. Ford plans to power most models with EcoBoost twin-turbo engines. The Bronco Sport small SUV will compete with more refined Jeeps such as the Compass and Cherokee.

Not to be outdone, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA’s) Jeep brand did everything it could to steal the Bronco’s thunder. In the days leading up to the Bronco’s reveal, Jeep showed off the EcoDiesel version of the Gladiator, its Wrangler-based pickup. A big hit since its launch in 2019, the Gladiator is one of the only vehicles to post sales gains this year. The 3L diesel model boasts 442 lb-ft of torque, the level of power needed for steep vertical climbs popular with off-road enthusiasts. https://www.ford.com; https://www.jeep.com

Judge rejects GM suit against FCA

A federal court in Detroit dismissed a lawsuit that General Motors (GM) filed against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) late last year, accusing its rival of bribing United Auto Workers (UAW) officials to harm GM.

Before dismissing it, Judge Paul Borman called it a waste of resources and ordered the automakers’ CEOs to meet to negotiate a settlement. GM rejected those pleas and asked for a new judge in the case. When that tactic failed, Borman threw out the complaint. GM says they may appeal the ruling.

At issue is a long-running investigation into the UAW by the FBI and the Department of Justice that has led to guilty pleas from former UAW President Gary Jones, several of his lieutenants, and a handful of FCA executives.

GM alleges that FCA wasn’t simply looking for better labor deals from the UAW when it bribed the union leaders, the automaker claims FCA was intentionally driving costs up for GM. At the time, late FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne had been publically pressuring GM to enter merger talks with FCA.

FCA, which has since agreed to merge with France’s Peugeot Citroën (PSA Group) (see regulations, page 10), has called the suit meritless and targeted at scuttling the PSA merger. https://www.gm.com; https://www.fcagroup.com