A brief history of the Jeep Compass

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2007 Jeep Compass

The Jeep Compass, which first hit American markets in 2007, was seen at the time as an attempt by Jeep to win the business of first-time Jeep owners who do most, if not all, of their driving on paved roads. Yet, since its inception the Compass has become more capable and more alike to other models in Jeep’s extensive lineup. The evolution of the Jeep Compass, from its early conception to its first- and second-generation models, reflects the growing popularity of the crossover SUV as well as Americans’ desire to drive personal vehicles capable of handling just about any road or condition.

Design and Early Stages

As with most models, the Compass was presented as a design concept before its production and release to consumers. Surprisingly, the design concept that Jeep presented in 2002 does not look much like the first-generation Compass that would be released five years down the road.

The Jeep Compass represents the automaker’s entry into the growing crossover SUV market, an idea that was emphasized by the 2-door design concept presented in 2002. More and more Americans began seeking out smaller, capable SUV’s, and the 2-door feel of a crossover captured the imagination of many drivers.

Also included in the original design concept was a powerful, 3.7-liter engine, the kind that you would find in Jeep’s larger and more established models from the time. However, this engine would not survive the five years to production because of a need for more fuel efficiency that was mostly unforeseen in 2002.

Generation One: The First Jeep Compass

The first-generation Compass, like many vehicles released around the start of the recession in 2007 and 2008, represented a compromise between practical concerns and shifting tastes in the American market. The heavy 3.7-liter engine was replaced by a less powerful one so that the vehicle would meet tightening environmental standards and satisfy drivers at the pump. While this was achieved, sales and overall reception of the first-generation Compass never matched those of the automaker’s more powerful models.

It wasn’t just practical concerns that influenced the design of the first-generation Jeep Compass, which first became available in 2007. Despite a change from a 2-door design to a 4-door one, the vehicle managed a smaller and sleeker design, indicative of American car buyers’ desire to “have it all” when it comes to personal vehicles. Marketing materials for the Compass, like many similar vehicles of the time, boasted both a roomy interior as well as a smaller, more agile setup.

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First generation Jeep Compass

Generation Two: A Return to Form

The second-generation Jeep Compass, which first appeared on roads in 2011 after lackluster sales in previous years, caused the Compass to resemble Jeep’s other offerings more so than in the past, even if it remained smaller and more agile than popular models like the Grand Cherokee. Jeep’s trademark “Trail Rated” badge now appeared on the vehicle’s exterior, and its new, heightened off-roading capabilities made it a viable option for a new segment of auto buyers. An updated axle system, increased wheel height, and other design changes and accessories meant that Jeep would deliver on its promise of a more rounded and capable second-generation Compass.

The engine’s power, a common source of complaint among first-generation Compass owners, was also addressed in the redesign. A more powerful engine like that which was presented in the 2002 concept, along with the other changes, would cause a steady increase in sales for the Compass after 2011.

To complete the redesign, Jeep introduced a range of cosmetic changes to the second-generation Compass. These changes touched on just about everything, from the vehicle’s interior to the grill and fenders. Changes to the exterior made the vehicle seem more compact and angular, a popular trend of this decade. In addition, Jeep offered a variety of interior packages suited to the needs of different drivers. The limited package boasted leather seating and other comforts and luxuries, while the High-Altitude package, popular with outdoor enthusiasts, offered a more refined, efficient, and durable interior.
 

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Second generation Jeep Compass

In the last decade and perhaps for longer, Jeep’s strategy for increasing sales has been to offer options for every buyer, from the loyal enthusiast to the daily commuter and everyone in between. The relatively young Jeep Compass has, from its inception to the 2011 redesign, reflected this strategy and as a result remains a very popular model in the crossover SUV market.

 

Categories: History
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