Jeep Commander’s South Africa return being plotted
Nameplate's return, like in India, should provide another rival for the Toyota Fortuner.
Jeep Commander bowed earlier this year as the Meridian in India. Image: Jeep India
Revived last year after what had been an eleven-year hiatus, Stellantis South Africa has confirmed that it is investigating the possibility of bringing the Jeep Commander to market either next year or in 2024.
A model that bridges the gap in Jeep’s line-up between the Compass and the soon-to-be-discontinued Cherokee, the Commander officially made a comeback in August, initially as a South America-only model based on the same Small Wide 4×4 LWB platform as the Compass.
India production means right-hand-drive
Production, however, has since expanded to India and the Ranjangaon Plant outside Pune under the Meridian banner as the American marque’s alternative to the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Isuzu MU-X.
A factory that produces the current Compass for South Africa, the Meridian has been a sales hit with around 400 units a month being moved despite its price premium over the Compass that regularly also features among the country’s best-selling vehicles.
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Commander vs Meridian
Despite offering three-rows of seating for seven or six like the Commander, the Meridian boasts a shorter wheelbase, but an increased overall height with respective measurements of 2 782 mm versus 2 794 mm and 1 698 mm compared to 1 682 mm.
Both models feature the same 4 769 mm length and 1 859 mm width though, with the claimed ground clearance favouring the Commander by nine millimetres; 212 mm versus 203 mm.
Boot space also falls to the Commander with between 233 and 1 760-litres available versus the Meridian’s 170-litres to 824-litres.
Up front, the Commander’s engine line-up comprises two options; the turbocharged 1.3-litre Firefly petrol rated at 137kW/270Nm and the 2.0-litre Multijet turbodiesel that delivers 125kW/380Nm.
For the Meriden, only the latter prevails with the same power output, but a reduction in torque to 350 Nm. It also comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox whereas the option, a nine-speed automatic, is the sole option for the Commander.
Speaking to The Citizen on the side-lines of the Alfa Romeo Tonale launch in Cape Town last week, Stellantis South Africa’s Sales and Marketing Head, Brain Smith, stated that while it is actively looking into the Commander/Meridian, certain changes will have to take place before sales can commence.
“It is all about matching [India’s] specifications with our specifications. For example, the towing capacity requirements for India are very different to the local requirements,” Smith said.
“So, if we find a car that can work and we can determine the price point where we can get some volume, then absolutely [we will bring it]. It is under consideration, absolutely. Do I have any timeframes, unfortunately not yet. But we believe there is huge potential.”
In addition, Smith also confirmed that the plug-in hybrid 4xe designation is being looked into, but only in 2024 with the same applying to the recently launched all-new Avenger.
“We are very conscious of the market and the move towards hybrid. Therefore, 4xe is definitely being considered and as for Avenger, yes absolutely, we are one of the countries in the planning, but don’t expect to see it next year”.
For now, the South African Jeep line-up continues to be headed by the Grand Cherokee L as no plans are currently being made to introduce the range-topping Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer and their respective long wheelbase L models due to production being limited to left-hand-drive.