Jeep Commander, production begins in Brazil

Jeep Commander, production begins in Brazil

Jeep Commander

The Jeep brand of the Stellantis group has announced that it is ready to start production of the new Jeep Commander SUV, also thanks to the work carried out by Comau, the Brazilian partner that deals with the production of the bodywork of the new 7-seater SUV.

At the request of Jeep, less than 24 months ago Comau started a process of renewal of the production lines in order to be ready in these months to start the production of the Jeep Commander: the works were concluded in advance of the schedule , despite the fact that the plant was closed for a few months due to the pandemic.

Today Comau has updated 14 production lines, made them more flexible so that they can handle the production of 4 different vehicle models in a stream of variable production; this means that all the assembly, welding and inspection operations have been designed to adapt to the various models that will move along the production line.

By doing this, Jeep will be able to increase the volume of production even in a period where it is difficult to produce cars due to the shortage of components: the updated production line is able to give priority to the production of vehicles for which parts are actually available, because the entire production line is in constant contact with the warehouse.

“Meeting the demanding requirements of Jeep has led us to expand our innovative assembly stations for the first time to work on four models,” explained Laerte Scarpitta, Comau's Cluster Leader for the Americas. "The success of this major project is a direct consequence of our ability to support the customer at every stage of the manufacturing process, and it is fantastic to see our state-of-the-art assembly solutions produce this new 7-seater SUV."

For Mateus Marchioro, director of the Jeep Brazil plant, from the very beginning "Comau has demonstrated its technical competence, its experience in automation and its commitment to the realization of the project. Their manufacturing solution requires fewer ancillary equipment and fewer manual processes. We are happy with the final result of the new lines. "

Forgotten Cars: Jeep Commander

Over the years, Jeep has made a few attempts at a full-size offering, something that could take on the Chevy Suburbans and Ford Expeditions of the world. While Jeep’s original Grand Wagoneer attempt remained rather successful for nearly 30 years, Jeep’s second stab at a viable competitor wasn’t as great or notable. That attempt was known as the Jeep Commander.

Welcome to Forgotten Cars where we go into a brief history and background of some models you may not remember. Join us for an automotive trip down memory lane.

1999 Jeep Commander ConceptImage: Stellantis Media Archives

Like many of Chrysler’s products, the Jeep Commander started life as a concept. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the only thing the concept and production Commander had in common in the end was the seven-slot grille. I will, however, say the concept was ahead of its time. The powertrain in original ideation introduced in 2000 was exotic in its use of a methanol fuel cell. That cell converted energy in the liquid to electricity, that was then routed to electric motors at each wheel. Of course, we never saw anything like that on the production model.

The actual customer-ready Commander debuted at the 2005 New York Auto Show for the 2006 model year. It shared a platform, independent suspension, live rear axle, and unibody construction with the Jeep Grand Cherokee but visually came across as just a larger Liberty.

Jeep’s reasoning for the Commander’s existence was also a bit strange. According to Allpar, Michael Berube, Jeep’s marketing executive at the time, claimed that customers voiced they didn’t actually need a permanent set of three rows of seating, just seating that could be used as “in a pinch” flexibility — having to drive home two more kids or adults now and then.

Basically, the Commander came off as the largest vehicle in the Jeep lineup. And much of that is due to its boxy design. The SUV was just two inches longer than the Grand Cherokee and had a horribly cramped third row with just 28.9 inches of legroom. While kids could easily get back there, adults could tolerate being back there for quick jaunts around the block. Ask me how I know.

Speaking of its design, Jeep really embraced the box for the Commander. Senior manager of Jeep’s design studio Donald A. Renkert didn’t want to make anything too big or imposing, saying, “... let’s embrace and celebrate the box. Let’s not think outside the box, let’s build a cooler box.” The design ended up being something new but familiar for Jeep customers, but perhaps larger than what the designer envisioned, which may or may not be a good thing.

Inside the Commander, things were just as quirky. Chrysler offered a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 357 horsepower — more than enough engine to power the boxy three-row titan. However, its two other engine options were less appealing.

Mid-tier trims came standard with the 4.7-liter 305 hp PowerTech V8. It was an odd option, considering the 5.7-liter Hemi was bigger than the PowerTech, only $820 more (on the Limited trim), and got better fuel economy with its Multi-Displacement System. The PowerTech was also slower than the Hemi. Our own Mike Spinelli clocked 10.2 seconds for a 0 to 60 mph time from a 4.7-liter-equipped Commander.

Base Commander buyers, if there was such a thing, had it even worse with the 3.7-liter 210 horsepower PowerTech V6 (the 3.7 was just a 4.7-liter V8 missing two cylinders) that turned the Commander into a leisurely block on wheels. At least buyers could option three different four-wheel-drive systems and two transfer case setups.

Maybe its demise was easy to see coming as cargo room was near non-existent with all seven seats full; fuel economy was trash across the board with the Hemi-powered four-wheel drive versions putting out 13/19/15 mpg combined (similar to another huge three-row Jeep); and the boxy design gave way to disturbing handling with Car and Driver describing it as “truly unsettling transient behavior.”

But the press loved this box of a Jeep, somewhat. Its high stadium driving and seating positions were praised, as well as how well-equipped higher trims were.

Base Commander Sports started at $27,985, with the Limited 4x4s going for upwards of $38,900. Almost 85,000 Commanders found a home in the first year of production, with a total of near 200,000 sold through 2010.

As Jeep tries its hand again at a full-size three-row SUV in the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, you have to wonder if this kind of vehicle will find as many buyers today as it did then in a world of high gas prices and a looming EV transition.