One rewarding aspects of covering the automotive industry is meeting the creative people behind the conception and development of today's newest cars and trucks as well as tomorrow's transportation.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Stephen C. Chupinsky, Brand Manager Compass
and Patriot Jeep
Marketing, during the Midwest Automotive Media Association event at Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI.
With the pride of a new "papa," Chupinsky talked enthusiastically about the growing branches of the Jeep
family for 2007 and beyond.
"Both the Compass
and Patriot are going to draw young, up-and-coming buyers and provide us a great opportunity to take the Jeep
brand into new territory," he said.
Chupinsky said Jeep
officials are aware the compact sport utility vehicle segment is one of the fastest growing sectors in the industry. "It has blossomed from 250,000 units at the beginning of this decade to over 380,000 last year, and (we) expect approximately 600,000 units by 2010, and over 800,000 units by 2016.
is in a great position to take advantage of that growth with the Compass
and Patriot models, each with its own identity aimed at different consumer audiences." Compass
's first front-wheel-drive-based product in the 65-year history of the brand, and the 4x2 comes with an independent suspension for comfortable on-road ride and handling.
"The front wheel drive 4x2 is opening up a lot of possibilities for Jeep
's future, providing driving confidence unlike some of the other Jeep
s in the past that were only offered as rear-wheel drive 4x2s," Chupinsky said.
"Of course, the Compass
can be ordered with the renowned Freedom Drive I full-time 4x4 system. Freedom Drive I uses state-of-the-art electronics to anticipate the need for added traction and improve vehicle stability in cornering situations by modulating power to the rear wheels
"In terms of their appearance, the refined, urban-like Compass
might polarize some audiences from its sister vehicle the Patriot, which is styled more in Jeep
's classic, squared-styled bodylines."
Available in Compass
Sport and Compass
Limited, the five-door SUV is athletic-looking with muscular fender forms, broad shoulders and a lower than normal Jeep
In front, Compass
wears the traditional seven-slot grille, along with round halogen headlights, driving lights, and a clamshell hood that wraps around the sides of the vehicle.
A lowered roof appearance is achieved by the glass-to-body ratio, which, in turn, gives the Compass
a protective presence.
Topping off the swept-back body of the Compass
is a black graphic appliqué that runs the length of the roof and tastefully blends into an aerodynamic spoiler. Integrated into the roof spoiler is a six-light-emitting diode center high-mounted stop lamp and washer nozzle.
Styling can be traced to three Jeep
concept vehicles. The earliest is the rugged, yet sophisticated 2000 Jeep
Varsity, followed by the contemporary design of the 2002 Compass
hatchback prototype, and finally the Jeep Compass
four-door concept that appeared at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show.
Under the sculpted hood of all 2007 Jeep Compass
models sold in the United States is the 172 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust camshafts.
"Dual VVT produces more power, better fuel economy and smoother, quieter operation than engines without (this technology), and is a technology typically not available on vehicles in this price bracket sold in North America," Chupinsky said.
"Customers have a choice between two gearboxes, the standard five-speed manual transaxle, or optional Continuously Variable Transaxle (CVT2) automatic transmission. "This is newest generation of CVT2, and it can be ordered with AutoStick that allows manual control with the simulation of six stepped gears," he added.
Early fuel economy information, based on engineering estimates, report Compass
rating 25/29 miles per gallon, highway/city respectively.
A 2-liter turbo diesel engine with a six-speed manual transaxle will be available in key diesel markets outside North America.
The Jeep Compass
comes with a long list of standard safety equipment including side curtain air bags that cover the front as well as the rear occupants, electronic stability program, traction control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, electronic roll mitigation, and fog lamps.
Filling the wheel wells are five-spoke 17-inch aluminum rims with Firestone Affinity touring tires, or 18-inch aluminum hubs wrapped in Firestone Firehawk all-season performance rubber. There is also an 18-inch chrome clad wheel option.
Since maintaining proper tire pressure is paramount for optimal safety, security, performance, and fuel economy, the Compass
can be ordered with a tire-pressure monitor.
This system uses the valve stems to automatically check the pressure in the tires and sends a radio frequency wave to a chip within the vehicle. On the dash is a display that shows the readings for each tire, and if low or excessive pressure is detected, the driver will be alerted.
Chupinsky was equally enthusiastic about the many innovations found inside the cabin, like YES Essentials fabric, a revolutionary textile that is woven into the material, not just sprayed on like tradition Scotchgard.
"It's amazing how well YES Essentials protects seats from stains, odors and discoloration, with soil-repellant and anti-microbial properties," he said.
Between the front seats is an articulated armrest that can slide fore and aft three inches for more elbow comfort. The unit contains an attached flip pocket for storing a cell phone or an MP3 player. When connected to the radio head unit, the MP3 tunes play through the vehicle's nine speakers.
A cool feature for music lovers is an available 458-watt Boston Acoustics premium sound speaker system that flips down from the raised tailgate for outdoor activities, camping, or working in the yard.
Located at the rear of the cabin is a ceiling lamp that not only illuminates the interior, but can be removed from its housing to become a handheld flashlight. It recharges when back in the ceiling niche and can hold a charge for several hours.
In the center console there is a 115-volt auxiliary two-prong power outlet to plug in laptops or other small electronic devices without the need of an inverter. It is optional on the Compass
Sport, standard on the Compass
Another thoughtful idea on all models is the "Ultrafloor' in the rear cargo area. It is a fold-flat vinyl load floor that sits over the full-size spare tire well, can withstand 250 pounds of pressure and is removable for easy cleaning.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the Compass
is $15,985. It is $17,585 for the 4x4 models.
The upgrade Compass
Limited model includes standard leather-heated seats, leather steering wheel with auxiliary audio control buttons on the backside of the wheel, and 18-inch rims and tires.
Prices for the Limited start at $20,140 for the front-wheel-drive model, and $21,740 for the Limited 4x4.
A special "E" package available on Jeep Compass
Sport adds a number of popular power features, interior goodies and additional exterior trim as standard. The MSRP for Jeep Compass
models equipped with the "E" Package is $18,585 and $20,185 for 4x4 models.
Prices listed above include the $560 delivery fee.
Options include a sunroof, self-dimming mirror, navigation system, and Bluetooth for hands-free phone interaction over the vehicle speakers.
The Jeep Compass
and Patriot (as well as the Dodge Caliber) will be produced at the newly refurbished 3.7 million-square-foot Belvidere, IL, assembly plant.
Chrysler Group has already launched a second production shift in March, which doubled the plant's assembly capacity. The addition of the second shift raised employment at the facility from 1,650 to 2,650 employees.
Engineered as a "world car," the Compass
combines power, utility, flexibility, bold styling and innovative features. Expect this one to be a global home run for Jeep
, with strong sales in North America, Europe and Asia.
Today, after six decades and four parent companies, the Jeep
brand is thriving under the Daimler/Chrysler umbrella, and will continue to do so with dedicated and talented individuals like Steve Chupinsky.