GMC Knows to Leave Well Enough Alone, Has No Plan to Fight Jeep Wrangler With a Dedicated Off-Roader

News that suggests General Motors no-car GMC division is closing in on the launch of its own subcompact crossover to accompany the compact GMC Terrain coincided with revelations from GMC’s division manager regarding the future of a Jeep Wrangler rival from GMC.

There won’t be a Jeep Wrangler rival from GMC.

Ford’s Bronco is yet two years away, and the extent to which the next Bronco will directly challenge the #iconic Jeep Wrangler remains a complete unknown. Rumors differ.

But according to the global head of Buick and GMC Duncan Aldred, GMC has no intention of tangling with the Wrangler in the convertible, off-road, body-on-frame sector over which the Wrangler exerts total control.

“I don’t think it’s worth trying to take on Wrangler,” GMC’s Aldred tells Automotive News.

On the one hand, it’s not surprising that plans for the all-light-truck GMC brand to fight the Jeep Wrangler don’t exist. There’s been no concept from GMC since 2001’s Terracross or 2005’s Graphyte that hints at a desire to enter that space. In fact, the last non-pickup concept from GMC was 2010’s Granite, a mini MPV.

However, in a world gone crazy for utility vehicles, a U.S.-centric brand that majors on body-on-frame construction seems like the ideal fit for a rugged off-roader that could eat into the Wrangler’s slice of the SUV pie.The problem? Other automakers try, and other automakers fail. The Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser were admittedly lacking the removable top portion of the equation, but both faded away as the Wrangler gained strength. 2015, you’ll recall, was the Wrangler’s best year of U.S. sales ever, and sales have only tailed off since because the next-gen Wrangler is quickly approaching. Jeep is still managing to produce nearly 17,000 U.S. Wrangler sales per month.

Toyota never managed to average more than 5,000 monthly FJ Cruiser sales. Nissan never averaged more than 7,400 Xterra sales per month. Annual FJ Cruiser sales plunged 79 percent from its 2006 peak in 2009. Xterra volume slid in 12 of 16 years.

You can see why GMC doesn’t think it’s even worth trying. GMC is not so full of hubris that it believes it can succeed where others have routinely failed. But in less direct opposition to the Wrangler, could GMC latch onto the next Chevrolet Blazer for a little 4Runner fighting fun?

In the meantime, the off-road answer at GMC resides in the Sierra lineup with the All Terrain X, currently a $3,405 package on the Sierra 1500.

[Images: General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.


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