Late last week, Jeep Brazil teased a refresh of the Renegade due next year that will bring revised sheet metal and a new engine. It’s expected to be a torquey 1.3-liter turbo four cylinder that’ll support ethanol for a slight bump in power, according to Carscoops. Cabin upgrades, along with more modern infotainment suite, appear to be in the cards as well.
The Renegade has been in production since 2014. In its first three years on sale in the U.S. it performed admirably, topping out at 106,000 vehicles shifted in 2016. But since then its numbers have slid, and the Renegade is routinely trounced by the likes of the Compass and Cherokee — bigger crossovers that American buyers flock to in far larger numbers. Jeep moved 240,000 Cherokees in 2018 alone, per data from CarSalesBase, versus 97,000 Renegades in that same year.
Taking in the full scope of Jeep’s strongest and weakest sellers, you might wonder why the Renegade is receiving a facelift so late into its lifespan. Funnily enough, while the Renegade is an afterthought in Jeep’s home market, buyers elsewhere in the world can’t get enough of the angry-faced, Italian-built scamp.
Brazil is one of those countries where people love the plucky little Jeep. It’s the brand’s second largest market, although not one that’s historically as fond of SUVs as our own. In 2016 the Renegade landed within the five top-selling nameplates there, according to MoparInsiders. Alongside the Compass, it’s led Jeep’s dominance of the SUV segment in Brazil, where it claimed more than a fifth of the category last year.
It’s not just Brazil. In Europe, the Renegade led a 241 percent increase for Jeep sales in the region last April, Automotive News reported. Last year, Europeans bought 58,000 Renegades and 47,000 Compasses. You want to know how many Wranglers they registered in 2020? 7,200. As for the Cherokee, only 2,200 of those moved on the continent last year.
This news shouldn’t surprise many because it perpetuates market stereotypes that have long existed. Americans like big cars and everyone else — particularly Europeans — don’t. In Japan, where a Grand Cherokee is a really tight squeeze, the Renegade has been instrumental in planting a flag for the brand. Before the Stellantis merger, 54 percent of all FCA vehicles sold in Japan were Jeeps, Forbes reported late last year.
All of this is to say that while the Renegade might be somewhat of a punchline here, the reason you can still walk into a showroom and order one (current inventory woes notwithstanding) is because of all the other countries in which the compact SUV continues to be a breadwinner for Jeep. Will that be enough to ensure the U.S. gets the Renegade’s successor when it eventually drops? I wouldn’t bet on it, but global success should at least allow the nameplate to go out with dignity here and see modest updates in its final years on American soil. And next time you see a new Renegade on the road and reflexively ask yourself “who the hell is buying those?” you’ll know the answer is Brazil.