More promising is a proposal for a production version of the Jeep Compass concept, which also was unwrapped at the 2002 Detroit show.
Chrysler now envisions the Compass as Jeep's first-ever "soft roader," a car-based crossover that will embrace the traditional Jeep styling cues and all-wheel drive, but with a much softer ride and lower ride height that would be inappropriate for serious off-road use (let alone the Rubicon torture test).
At the moment, a production version of the Compass has been assigned a program code (MK74), a platform (GS, from the next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer), and a plant (Belvidere, Ill.), with a potential startup date of January 2006.
Hard-core Jeep traditionalists have been howling in protest ever since the Compass concept was unveiled. But I suspect this may have even greater sales potential than the M80, particularly in the sub-$20,000 bracket that is now dominated by the Asians.
It will face some stiff competition from the likes of Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia. But the Compass boasts something the other guys don't have: the Jeep brand name.