On Jeep’s recent Rs. 40k – 3L price hike: Justified or unreasonable?

To be fair now there are two vehicles that come close individually to the Compass in two areas and exceeds them in two.

BHPian Air Cav recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I echo AniChaudhary’s views. Being an actual owner of a JC 4×4 Ltd, except for the 3.14 L hike in one variant of the Meridian I do not see much fuss about the price hike. I have had my share of ownership niggles but the truth is that no American or European manufacturers match the statistical reliability, QC and management of the Japs, wether yesterday or today, and anywhere in the world. A handful of extremely unfortunate owners apart (with major issues that crop up in all brands, some less, some a little more) I am yet to meet a Compass owner who is actually dissatisfied with his ride. My observations are as follows.

Anyone comparing Creta/Seltos with a Compass without experiencing them over some amount of time IMO really misses the point. There is a new gen Creta in my extended family as is there an Astor 1.3 Turbo (father in law) with ADAS as well as a Taigun 1.5 TSI. Having driven all of them extensively on long routes, from a purely drivers perspective they are like Chalk and Cheese. SUV Posers apart I will always choose my Compass over any of them for any type of usage except may be in certain tight old city roads and areas with helluva traffic esp the Taigun. Except for jingle bells and confetti “features” apart, for me they dont even appear in the rearview. I wonder how many owners actually use the confetti regularly for any meaningful purpose. I dont. I will always give preference to actual quality of a drive over any created add on perception of quality.

This rant against the Compass IMO majorly stems from those who actually dont own one or didnt try it out enough or had different set of priorities from what the Compass offers. The primary cause of this rant is the Indian consumer perception of equating cost with acerage. If they are paying 6 to 10 L more they consistently and subconsciously expect 2 more seats and the ‘I have arrived” size to boot over the above mentioned “hatchbacks on stilts”.

Before settling on the Compass I had comprehensively test driven my collegues latest gen Fortuner and my classmates Endy (the last gen that was sold before Ford shut shop and with it has its own share of a few persistent niggles). They are great vehicles but I will buy them only if I regularly have a ton of luggage to move with 5 people more. I, like the median car owner dont have to. They were really better off road (not bad roads) but if I have to do triple digit speeds all day on from 2 lane to 4 lane highways, expressways and twisties too then the Compass is the better bet. It is composed, dynamically sound for a 4×4 and overall a far more relaxed experience than the constant swaying, bobbing and pitching at high speeds and the juddering and bouncing of low speed rides on bad roads not to mention the XL footprint esp on narrow tracks and traffic. It is more silent too and at the end of a 600km plus day I can walk out of the Compass far fresher and less stressed out than from the Endy or Fortuner.

Coming to “serious” offroading my take is pretty straight forward. Having been in the Army for over 2 decades I have driven over unspeakable trn from the moonscapes of Ladakh, high Himalayas of Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal and also the muddy hills of Meghalaya and and the sister states through ice, sleet, slush slides, overflowing streams and causeways, collapsed embakments and untouched and pristine wildernesses not accessible to others and not to forget the dune bashings in western Rajastan. My vehicles were majorly Gypsies, MM540 (long ago. In fact I learnt and started Hill driving in the Pir Panjals on an MM540) and some Scorpios and Safari Storme 4×4. And all this, call it work commute if you may, as a person who lived there and partook in such driving as a regular affair rather than someone who comes as a tourist or adventurer on a trip or experience of a lifetime scenario or even on competitions. They are very different approaches.

The only new vehicles (available today at a reasonable priceI) will consider for “serious” off roading in stock form are a Thar, Gurkha and the latest entrant the Gimny. But what does this “serious” offroading mean. This is almost synonymous with pointing ones nose into the deepest pits, muddiest ditches and steepest slopes and rockiest trails. It is like chalking out a course for the ultimate test of man and machine just for the kicks of it. Thats great and fun but its an extremely niche activity. Its like taking ones fast car to the track. Very few and passionately committed people do it for the sake of it. And no matter what obstacle one crosses or fords there is always a bigger that requires more mods. Thats not really how one actually moves. The biggest trick of off roading as a necessity is to find the path of least resistance even if it means detours. Thats how one can function and drive on really bad terrain for a living. It is not about finding the most challenging one. That is only for the hobby. Having survived the worst of terrain on many years on 4 wheels the last activity I would want to do is go looking for ditches and ruts. There is always a better way in practical life to get there.

With that as a backdrop to owning a 4×4 I will not buy a Thar or Gimny or Gurkha. They are excellent off road but for me getting to the destination is more important than a dunk in the mud. So I dont want to go looking for the deepest pit. Further, for all practical purposes on the open road these vehicles are not really dream drives, far from it. For the sake of practicality and comfort which is the major requirement of any car owner who needs a go anywhere vehicle they dont really cut ice. These vehicles can serve the purpose of a niche role very well but are heavily compromised on all other fronts.

Dont get me wrong. I like my dose of offroads and trails, hills and dales as well (old habits die hard) and I am a wildlife buff who regularly visits the many Tiger reserves around the country. In fact i may well plan my next career in it. So now we come to the Compass proposition. For someone like me whose priority is get to the destination in reasonable comfort and safety with my wife and son rather than frolick in the mud or roll on rocks and whose usage is roughly 20 % off road (and dosent shy away from it if the need arises) and 80 % on road the Compass 4×4 is nearly the perfect vehicle this side of 50 L. It will munch miles at triple digits all day with nearly the comfort, composure and assurance of an above average and driver focussed sedan (have owned an Ikon 1.6 and Linea T Jet previously). It will roll over bad roads fast without a sweat and if you plan well, are smart and know how to drive as per the situation without breaking into swashbuckling histronics, it will surprise you and take you to 85 % of places where the “hardcore” offroaders will go. For example I have gone along the outlier jungle trails and buffer tracks of nealy all Central Indian Tiger reserves with my family and a guide in my 4×4 Compass and only 5% of the places were those where I missed the std safari Gypsy and didnt stretch it. Same goes for the inside areas too ie as far as tracks and trails are concerned. Private vehicles are not customarily allowed but if I took my Compass in there would probably be no more than 10% of places which only the Gypsy could reach. Thats off road enough for me and I daresay that that is more than off road enough for 98 out of 100 people.

So for me the Compass 4×4 stands as the only dual purpose vehicle this side of 50 L which satisfies 90% of both purposes without compromising more than 15% tradeoff on either side. Another vehicle with similar capability was the Duster AWD which cost 15L on road a decade back but it was built to a cost (though acceptably for me for what it offered). The Compass is a far more refined, grown up and of much better qualitative value in comparison. Hence I have happily parked my money on it and every time I realise how good a package it is under the skin. Jeep knew what they were doing when they built it and it ticks the boxes for the target customer and may I add that unlike the Tuscon AWD, Compass was designed by off road specialists (the ruggedness oozes on the offroad trail though being a mono Q). The customer who values it on road as well as off it without wanting to fuss around on either. This is why I find the premium that Jeep charges for it over the trinket laden posers quite acceptable. I knew and most Jeep customers esp 4×4 ones (as it exploits the vehicle to the full) know that they have not paid that extra for 2 foldable seats, fancy electronics and Christmas tree lights and maybe a faster AT at times. They have paid extra for how and where it drives them.

To be fair now there are two vehicles that come close individually to the Compass in two areas and exceeds them in two. The TATA Safari/Harrier do not measure up in a comparison to me anyway so Ill skip them. But the XUV700 with that stonker of an engine takes the roadworthiness a few notches higher though the overall rating for me is similar owing to the fact that the Compass is a more balanced, stable, mature and better handling drive. In fact my brother owned a 2017 1.4 Sport and has recently bought the XUV700. He enjoys the kick of the powerplant and its refinement, features and comfort yet misses the overall composure, solidity and almost car like maturity of the Compass. Note : Dont try to go much away from the smooth tracks in the 700 in its present form. Will bog down pretty easy. It deserves a AWD model to complete a very good package. I never found the Compass 1.4 Petrol as underpowered. It was no scorcher but was adequate and very driveable in manual though very thirsty. One cant defy Physics but yes I do feel that the Compass should have had a 1.8 Ltr Turbo petrol at least for its weight. That is what Jeep should do if they re launch the petrol model. The diesel I own is very good. No point comparing with Endys or Fortuners based on price perceptions as the compass at its heaviest is around 1700Kgs (4×4 auto) compared to nearly 2.25 tons of the others. The Meridian deserves a reasonable up tune as per its size and hence larger weight to keep better power to weight. The other vehicle is the Scorpion N. It is quite comfortable and vastly capable off road. It surprised me on the few test drives I have taken around the hill in Mahirvani in Nasik. But the on road manners are (though vastly improved than the Classic) sedate, predictable and adequately confident at best rather than inspiring. The Compass 4×4 may be, on these individual attributes, a notch or two below both individually but when these two on and off road attributes are combined into one package still overall it is ahead of either. Thats saying a lot when the Mahindras are excellent in their own right one being a Mono the other a BOF.

Coming to the business side of things. Observing Jeep India from the customer lobby is not all that alarming. I take both my Compass and Punto Abarth for service. The workshops are always busy and full. Jeep IMO has sold a fair no of vehicles when compared to the infra that they have set up. They do charge a brand premium but having owned Chevvy, Ford, Fiat, Jeep and having serviced cars in the family ie Honda, VW, Maruti, Hyundai, MG, I can say that it is not exceptionally high. Slightly better QC would be welcome and the delay of a new compact model tailored for India and other developing market does intrigue me but Jeep unlike Ford, Chevvy, FIAT, VW, Skoda, Honda etc which have shut shop or are being suspected to likely shut shop, has never been a mass market brand anywhere including the US. They have never wanted to be and have never functioned as one. They have always been a niche brand. Niche brand mind you and not a luxury brand. A Wrangler is not a Range Rover anywhere in the world. For some reason they have been perceived or projected in India as a luxury brand. I dont know the reason behind this and for me it is not.

Jeep will not compete with Hyundai, Maruti, KIA et all for a share of the market pie by selling comparable products at comparable prices. Its not who they are and they are very clear and sure on that. They dont mind a low volume market. They have invested only accordingly. None of their markets are high volume. That does nor mean they will not survive or exit. Its the way the brand functions. They will sell few products in small numbers and keep going if required and wait for the next new product to hit the high. They should possibly have more localisations for their higher end products to increase their profit. Their balance sheet is not really loss making and they dont look like it either. People who want a Jeep for what it is will come and buy one. They will not be the ones looking for the next best car that ticks most boxes for them.

i have written this for the simple reason of the continuous negativity that is prevalent about the Jeep brand now. I own one and its damn good and worth the money I paid. I dont want that to be drowned by impressions and opinions of people who dont even own one and quote figures and comparisons for the sake of argument. If its me who has put in his hard earned money into one and am happy that I did like 98 out of 100 owners, I fail to see the reason for the anxiety and frustration of people that didnt.

And now let me say this. I own a Punto Abarth which was the topic of discussion and a rage at Team BHP in 2015-2017. I bought one in early 2017 and am a very happy owner till date. No other car this side of many others offered what the Abarth did. At 12L it offered a chance to own a little hooligan of silly childhood dreams. A focussed, moody , tempestuous and characterful machine. It is far from perfect. Nothing is. There were dime a dozen rants and comments on seating posture, notchy gearbox, wheelspins etc etc Suggestions of academic value on how this should be fixed and that should be addressed. But the real joke is that though there was nothing quite like it being sold by a long shot, less than 300 were ever sold off the showroom. The detractors probably bought Swifts while lecturing about Abarths. Nothing can be more ironic. I never said a word about it except to the ones that actually drive it as I have been too happy adjusting to it and driving it rather than being concerned about the riff raff around it. Its got a uprated intercooler, stg 1 remap, free flow catback pipe, 205 section tires and a few things extra at the right places including a permanent smile when behind the wheel. Its not been easy like a Swift but she will stay with me as will the Compass 4×4 coz she is special. People can count a few airbags and a few lights and chips more. Lets keep driving for the sake of it.

Here’s what BHPian shankar.balan had to say on the matter:

Jeep is probably going to shut shop in India the way FCA has done. They cannot get things right for the Indian Consumer with their present offerings and pricing.

At the rate they are going, Jeep should just re-license the Jeep Brand to Mahindra in India and all developing markets and thus ’legally adopt’ the Thar which is after all their own son from another father. Then the Thar will no longer be considered as a ‘WRONGLER’ but will finally be legitimized as a pucca ‘cut price’ Wrangler.

Here’s what GTO had to say on the matter:

Such an awesome machine, the Jeep Compass is. But it has the worst backers behind it. The car ends up being considered by many potential customers, but dropped for the size : price calculation (and the fact that it’s now one of the oldest + smallest crossovers in the segment below & above).

Zomato recently posted a profit and one of the main reasons was extracting higher average invoices from its loyal customers. Someone at Jeep read that over the weekend and “voila” .

Beautiful cars, backed by people who don’t understand business. Just like Fiat.

Here’s what BHPian apocalypse had to say on the matter:

Opportunity for a mathematical joke.

Up to 3.14? Looks like Jeep wants a bigger piece of the pi(e).

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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