Why Is Everyone Buying the Jeep Grand Cherokee Instead of the Wrangler?

When most people think of a Jeep, they think of the iconic Wrangler. And at the beginning of 2021, Jeep sold about as many Wranglers as Grand Cherokees. But month over month, Grand Cherokee sales have climbed, and they now dwarf Wrangler sales. It appears that some Jeep fans are opting for the latest generation of the Grand Cherokee over the Wrangler.

The rise of the Jeep Wrangler

Plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV towing a classic Wrangler predecessor down a dirt road with trees in the background.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe | Stellantis

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For decades, the Jeep Wrangler has been one of the most iconic 4x4s on the planet. It can trace its memorable design back to the Willys Jeep engineered to carry Allied troops across war-torn Europe. After WWII, Willys offered the first civilian Jeep (CJ) and it became the open-top 4×4 of choice across America.

By 2007, Jeep had become part of the Chrysler Corporation, and the CJ has morphed into the Wrangler through a series of minor evolutions. It still was a two-door, convertible 4×4 with a tight turning radius, solid axles, and an available manual transmission.

For the 2007 model year, Chrysler chose to make a major change to its Jeep Wrangler: It launched the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. With an available factory-installed, removable hard top, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is comparable to many other midsize SUVs. Now it is a viable choice for motorists who need four doors and ample cargo room. The result was a surge in Jeep Wrangler sales.

Jeep was only selling 80,000 two-door Wranglers a year. But in 2007 alone, Jeep sold 119,000 Wranglers and Wrangler Unlimiteds, according to the Good Car, Bad Car website.

Sales have continued to improve: In 2015, Jeep sold 200,000 Wranglers in one year. Then in 2018, the new “JL” generation launched Wrangler sales to 240,000. Jeep has sold at least 200,000 Wranglers every year since. But now the Wrangler has some stiff competition from inside Jeep: the Grand Cherokee.

The all-new 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L

In June 2021, Jeep launched an all-new Grand Cherokee with three rows of seating: the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L. This SUV combined legendary Jeep off-road capability with the opulence pioneered by the Ram-based Grand Wagoneer.

Blue Jeep wrangler and White Grand Cherokee parked side-by-side under a solar panel in the desert.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler 4xe | Stellantis

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The 2021 Grand Cherokee L was the first model in the Grand Cherokee’s fifth generation (codenamed the WL). While it carried over the V6 and V8 engines, with their eight-speed transmissions, from the previous generation, it was technologically very different.

Grand Cherokee L features include its “Quadra-Drive” all-wheel-drive system available with a Hi/Lo differential. Many automakers actually refer to such a system as a full-time 4WD, but Jeep’s decision to call its system AWD puts it in the company of luxury SUVs such as Land Rover. Jeep also offers its Cherokee L with adjustable air suspension and a limited-sleep rear differential.

Inside, the Cherokee L shares luxurious features with the new Grand Wagoneer. These include a wood-grain interior and a dedicated touchscreen for the front seat passenger.

Is the new Jeep Grand Cherokee hurting Wrangler sales?

This new, long-wheelbase Jeep Grand Cherokee was obviously appealing to car buyers in need of a third-row SUV. In 2021, Jeep saw a 25% bump in Grand Cherokee sales, leaping from about 200k to 254,445 units. Meanwhile, Wrangler sales stayed static at 200k.

Publicity photo of Jeep's plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee and Wrangler charging together, in the desert, from a solar panel.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler 4xe | Stellantis

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More specifically, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler had roughly equal sales during the first quarter of 2021. By April, May, and June, the Wrangler saw a summer sales bump and it pulled ahead. But Jeep also launched the new 2022 Grand Cherokee L in June 2021.

In July 2021, the new Grand Cherokee bumped Grand Cherokee sales from 17k to 24k a month. It remained the stronger a seller for the rest of the year.

For the 2022 model year, Jeep expanded its new WL-series Grand Cherokee to its regular-wheelbase Grand Cherokee model. This Jeep is five inches shorter and has one less row of seats. It also has a tighter turning radius which makes it more capable off-road. The result appears to be a further dip in Jeep Wrangler sales.

In quarter 1 (Q1) of 2021, Jeep sold 55,197 Grand Cherokees and 49,647 Wranglers. But during Q1 2022, the number of Wranglers Jeep sold dropped to 45,553 while the number of Grand Cherokees it sold rocketed to 75,116.

Obviously, not all this interest in the new Grand Cherokee could come from the slight dip in Wrangler sales. Most Grand Cherokee buyers must be choosing it over other third-row SUVs. That said, the drop in Wrangler sales suggests at least some Jeep fans are choosing the Grand Cherokee.

Next, see a review of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee in the video below:

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