Jeep can’t legally sell Jeeps the way they used to make Jeeps. Simple, inexpensive Jeeps, like the old CJ Series. Because of Uncle and his mandates. Jeeps like the old CJ didn’t have air bags and designing it to have air bags – and all the rest of it – would mean redesigning the CJ into something neither simple nor inexpensive.
Which is just what Jeep did.
Enter Mahindra – the Indian manufacturer of trucks and Jeeps like they used to make them. Mahindra makes new CJs – without the air bags, back-up cameras, tire pressure monitoring systems or the mechanically perplex direct-injected/cylinder deactivated engines – and all the rest of it.
What they do come with is a 2.5 liter turbo-diesel engine that is capable of averaging better than 50 miles-per-gallon, paired to a five-speed manual transmission and lock’-’em-yourself 4×4 hubs. No digital dashboards, no climate control AC.
Just a Jeep.
They’re called Roxors – but one look and you’ll recognize the Jeep DNA. Which isn’t surprising given that Mahindra has licensed rights to build the old CJ (aka Willys) since the 1940s through to the present. But the understanding was that these Roxor-Jeeps would not be sold here and thereby tempt the Jeep inclined with a simpler, less-expensive and arguably more Jeep Jeep than the current government-approved Jeeps.
Mahindra did just that – even to the extent of opening a U.S. headquarters in Michigan – and now a very unhappy Jeep (technically, FiatChrysler, which owns the Jeep brand) is beseeching Uncle for relief, claiming (accurately) that Mahindra has copied “…the iconic Jeep design.”
Indeed. They have.
Because Jeep no longer makes the “iconic design.”
The irony is . . . depressing.
Technically, the Roxor-Jeep is “for off road use only”- which is how the company skirts the DOT and the EPA. But Jeep is worried that people might take these Roxor-Jeeps on-road, which would be easy enough to get away with – and we can’t have that.
But why not?
In the first place, much as FCA’s complaint about the Roxor being a “near identical copy” of the old Willys/CJ is inarguable – Mahindra has the literal blueprints – it’s also inarguable that Jeep no longer makes Jeeps like the old Willys/CJ.
So why not let Mahindra make them?
The answer of course, is that allowing Mahindra to make a simple, inexpensive Jeep – and allowing us to buy such a vehicle, especially to use (gasp!) on road – would be to risk people doing exactly that. In which case, it would become obvious that people prefer simpler, less expensive vehicles to the Uncle-approved ones.
It could upend everything. Most alarmingly, it could expose the lie that people really do want the government to design their cars – as opposed to the car companies, responding to buyer demand instead of complying with government fatwas.
The larger tragedy here is that FCA is fighting Mahindra rather than directing its ire at Uncle. A much more moral argument than bellowing about Mahindra copying the “iconic” Willys CJ Jeep would be to argue that Uncle ought to get out of the business of designing Jeeps – and everything else on four wheels – as it’s none of the government’s legitimate business.
The old Willys Jeep and other banned-by-regulation simple, inexpensive cars were not “unsafe.” They just didn’t provide the degree of crash protection in various testing scenarios concocted by the government that modern, government-approved cars do. If you didn’t crash – an event largely under the control of the driver – then an old Willys Jeep was every bit as “safe” as a brand-new S-Class Mercedes.
Uncle’s “safety” mandates are almost entirely about dealing with crash scenarios that are hypotheticals and no different, really, than government ordering people to not eat “too much” butter or bacon because it might result in atherosclerosis. Well, what of it? Isn’t that our business?
And besides, it is very hard to understand the reasoning behind allowing (don’t you hate that term?) us to ride motorcycles without even a single air bag and zero crash protection while outlawing the much safer (if you happen to wreck) Willys Jeep and others like it.
Even more bizarre – and arguably just as immoral – are the fatwas which on the one hand insist that new cars (this includes new Jeeps) average 30-something MPG or else their manufacturers get socked with “gas guzzler” fines, to be passed on to buyers – while on the other hand proscribing 50-MPG diesels such as the Roxor’s, on the grounds that it emits .03 percent more oxides of nitrogen than the maximum allowable (there it is again) arbitrary number pulled out of a hat by a bureaucratic ayatollah ensconced – but never elected – within the bowels of the EPA.
The problem, of course, is the FCA has joined hands with Uncle and thus might as well be Uncle. And FCA isn’t the only one spooning with the goateed degenerate. Every car company has decided it is better to give seedy old Uncle a hug rather than the finger. They have invested in Uncle-approved cars and to go back now would cost them money. And to let Mahindra or any other car company that hasn’t invested in everything Uncle-approved would be “unfair”…
Just not to us.
. . .
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