Questions and Answers: Jeep Design Manager Mark Allen – The Influence of Heritage on Design

With the expansion of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee line-up, one that will include both two-row and three-row models, Jeep has brought its style closer to that of the Compass and upcoming Wagoneer.

Jeep design manager Mark Allen likes to see a certain continuity between the Jeep models. recently had the chance to speak with Jeep’s exterior design chief Mark Allen during the Grand Cherokee’s recent launch in Michigan. As we sat down with him, Allen talked about the descent of the Grand Cherokee. He also talked about defying conventional wisdom in design and why some fashion flies are unlikely to return.

A nod to the past

Detroit Bureau: When I look at the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, it’s the first time I’ve seen a Grand Cherokee where I did not see the influence of Jeep designer Brock Stevens.

Mark Allen: Well, let’s talk about it. The Grand Wagoneer was our original luxury SUV and 91 I think we stopped making it, and the 93 was the first Grand Cherokee, the ZJ. And it was really an extension of the little Cherokee, if you remember, it was supposed to replace it, but it did not and we did not – wise enough, and that was where there was a fork in the road.

After that, the subsequent Grand Cherokees, WJ, WK and the current car, always baked in a little Wagoneer. This one actually has even more. Of course, it has the wheel openings and the forward-leaning grille.

We watched Brock Stevens’ Wagoneer as we did so. And then there is a small slash on the taillight that does not mean anything to most people, but for me it reminds me of that blocky taillight that went around the corner later. And then you’ll see when we finally get to the regular Grand Cherokee two rows, there’s even a little more, because I’ll let it continue to make an impact.

The new Jeep Grand Cherokee takes some design tips from the brand’s legendary Wagoneer.

I see the Grand Cherokee as Wagoneer’s lineage. The new Wagoneer is a Wagoneer by name only.

This car is the one that has always carried those small design signals, the tapered D-pillar, the slash in the taillight, and now I think the forward-leaning front. In the beginning, it was to get the hood longer to match the long roof on the three rows, but it works great on both cars. So it was a bit intentional, I really have, maybe a mistake sometimes (to be) too much a fan of continuing with inheritance, because it must always be new, it must push forward, but I like to have small nods to the past .

TDB: The forward-leaning grille is something that has simply not been done on modern jeeps, but it is obviously part of Jeep’s legacy. So it’s just one of the signals it’s taken from the past.

MA: I happen to be a big fan of the whole front because it looks intelligent and it looks confident. I do not like all the rudeness and anger that is going on in the front right now. This car does not have to do that. It’s Grand Cherokee, and it must be stable and confident. This car will be in use for a few years, the current one, we are in 10 years now. I do not know if we will get that far with the new one, but yes, it will be on the way for a while. So I do not want it to be good today and not tomorrow type,

TDB: It seems that some of the themes we see on the new Grand Cherokee are the ones that debuted on the compass, such as the chrome winding and other elements, such as the D-pillar and the position of the whole vehicle, everything seems to have started with the compass.

2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer marine forward
The legend is back for 2022. Grand Wagoneer returns to the Jeep series after more than three decades away.

MA: They go back and forth; we make them in the same room. When we did, the bright work that went from the mirror around and under the backlight, we really liked it. We take the compass and relate it to the Grand Cherokee side of the family, while Renegade is clearly related to the Wrangler side of the family. It worked, but it was by mistake, honestly.

When we had the original compass with the round headlights, I had to update the center bike and to go fast, I grabbed the Grand Cherokee headlight and the rest of the car fell into place. This idea for a mini Grand Cherokee came into play, and we played it with a new compass as well. So I like to connect them and then the other side of the family.

TDB: When you start looking at the legacy of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, it goes back to the Wagoneer and Super Wagoneer, the first luxury SUV.

MA: They were just trying to make a station wagon. They did not try to do anything special. They did not really see it as how it is used now.

Change buyer preferences

TDB: Let’s face it, most SUVs and crossovers are just station wagons.

Allen noted that the color choices among vehicle buyers change depending on the price of the vehicle.

MA: At the beginning of my career, I heard over and over again and read in newspapers that in the American market you can not sell a five-door hatchback. It’s every CUV on the road. Take a hatchback, lift it up, put a meaty tire on it and suddenly it’s okay. (laughs) Look at the convertible; The convertible is dead, right? We sell hundreds of thousands a year; every Wrangler is a convertible.

Something about changing the formula makes it acceptable. They do not buy it because it had four-wheel drive, they buy it because it is a configurable convertible. It will never go in low range. (laughs)

TDB: On the new vehicle you offer a black roof. Given your need for design longevity, is there any concern about doing so? It seems to be a trend right now.

MA: It’s a huge trend right now. It’s the new vinyl top.

TDB: Oh, that’s exactly what it is.

MA: But we saw it as a really smart way to handle some of the car’s visual weight. I really like the black or the white. It reduces the visual height, and it gives it some sophistication. Honestly, I think it’s cool, it’s probably a trend, which will be with us for a few more years and disappear. Now you start to see white roofs. I have seen Chevrolet make a white roof and I have seen red on Kias, so then it will just be two toned.

What is old may be new again – or not

Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Older styling choices such as two-tone paint or wood panels are unlikely to make a major return due to today’s manufacturing processes.

TDB: Two-tone has been gone for decades. It’s time to dump her and move on.

MA: Well, it is not always so cheap and good, it seems easy, but the problem is honestly that the plants are not decorated for it anymore.

TDB: So talk about this a little why it is not so easy.

MA: When you think about it, a car gets painted red. It enters the tunnel at one end of the primer and comes out the other end red. To paint the same car with a black roof, I have to paint the roof black in another booth, take the car around and do some masking and stuff and then into the tunnel. So two trips have to be made, and we are simply not furnished for body shop space.

I can put a car at one station, put on the wheels and go to the next station. It takes two minutes or so. To paint it, it must go in and be painted and dried. And if I paint the roof black, it must be a certain dryness so that I can tape it off and make the body. My point is just that I think back on the day, there were probably more paint booths. Now it is a dedicated tunnel.

TDB: Of course, there was a time when car manufacturers offered much more colors.

MA: Yes Yes. It’s fun, I have some, some old directories. I’m fascinated by this Chrysler catalog from 1971. There are three different brown colors. But if you got an environmental car, you got a green interior.

Allen has been leading Jeep design for almost a decade now.

TDB: What colors surprise you with their popularity?

MA: The continuation of silver and permutations of it. We have some colors on, especially on the Wrangler, there is a straight shade of gray. It’s the color of your high school locker. It’s nothing. And it is one of our most popular colors.

In fact, we will probably make it a standard color. But red, white, black, silver, gray – these are your standard colors then. Right? Well, in Wrangler we now have three gray – three. When do we make special colors on Wrangler like purple? You will maximize the desire for purple in about two weeks. But you can scatter it. Yellow comes and goes. We have not found a color that does not work on Wrangler yet.

TDB: And at the Grand Cherokee, it’s very different.

MA: You have a premium palette. But we are starting to see movement in that zone. A colorful car works up to about $ 12,000. After that, it becomes really conservative. But then you get to $ 100,000, it comes back on a Lamborghini, or something like that. So I can paint a Neon or a Dart in this color, and a Lamborghini. But nothing in between. It’s starting to move a little. We are starting to see more premium vehicles with more extroverted color palettes.

TDB: So we should not be surprised at some point in the future, when there is a high-performance variant of the Grand Cherokee with a much more vibrant color palette.

MA: Yes, do not be surprised. That being said, will probably not paint the three-row car, yellow.

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