Jeep: The Death of an Icon?
by Larry Morton
I love Jeeps...or, at least I used to love Jeeps. Let me explain.
I have written a number of articles about the modern automotive industry, some positive and much not so positive. I have always loved cars, trucks, off road vehicles, tractors, trains...well, just about anything with wheels.
I say all of this to explain that I was recently reading a "Letter to the Editor" comment in an old issue of Hemmings Classic Car
magazine dated October 2014, Issue #121.
On page 30 of this particular issue a young man from England named Josh Brailsford in reference to old cars versus new wrote: "I like modern cars too--they can certainly be impressive--and I am studying to become an automotive engineer. I can't help feeling, though, that modern cars are too complex, especially when it comes to electronic gadgets, and one day a point will be reached where these distractions will cause us to forget to enjoy driving our cars".
Bingo! I couldn't have said it better myself. This is what I have been saying for years. New vehicles are getting so complex that even the modern mechanic is having trouble keeping up with needed repairs...especially as the vehicle ages.
So how does this affect the modern Jeep? Well, have you looked into a new Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, or Wrangler lately? Great looking and technologically cool vehicles, yes. That is until there is a problem.
With older Jeeps one could simply buy a Haynes repair manual, have a few decent tools and
save hundreds to thousand of dollars on repairs. Even if you had to take your Jeep to a mechanic most things were easily diagnosed and fixed...with a reasonable cost.
The future of Jeeps as well as all of the other automotive builders appears bleak for the average person who does not have the resources to even maintain such a complex hunk of computers, sensors, wires, and gizmos.
Is the iconic Jeep dying? Maybe. Government regulations and mandates have pushed automotive manufacturers to jump through numerous hoops to make agencies like the EPA
happy, and this may be the root of the problem.
The good news is that there are still a lot of older Jeeps out there that have been restored, rebuilt, or they are in decent mechanical condition. They are mechanically simpler to work on, easy to maintain, and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to keep them running well.
The sad news is that the new Jeeps are moving out of reach of the average enthusiast. Even a good used Jeep within the 5 year range may be out of reach for most. Worst of all is that the electronics and mechanics are so sophisticated that cost of repairs is prohibitive as well.
So, as Mr. Brailsford said above, "...one day a point will be reached where these distractions will cause us to forget to enjoy our cars". It seems that we may be approaching that point very quickly. I certainly hope not.
Larry H. Morton