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Feature-Rich Jeep Compass Defies Convention

Written by  Naveen Arul | 05 May 2017 | Published in May 2017 ( Technology )

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) brought in the Jeep brand to India with the launch of its Wrangler and Grand Cherokee models in August last year. The company had also announced that it would manufacture the smaller Jeep Compass at the Fiat India plant at Ranjangaon, near Pune, making it the first ever Jeep SUV to be locally manufactured in India. Now, FCA recently unveiled the pre-production models of the Compass, with the vehicle slated to go into production in June this year. India is the fourth market where the Jeep Compass will be manufactured, after Brazil, China and Mexico.

FCA invited us to its Ranjangaon plant for the unveiling of the Jeep Compass, along with a quick tour of parts of the manufacturing facility where the SUV will be made. Kevin Flynn, President and Managing Director, FCA India; James Lyijynen, Chief Program Engineer, Jeep Compass, FCA Global; Bill Zheng, Head of Design, FCA APAC and Gurpratap Boparai, CEO, FIAPL, were present during this plant tour, and provided information on the development, design, safety, manufacturing and marketing strategies for the Jeep Compass.

DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT

FCA globally unveiled the Jeep Compass in September 2016, in Brazil. The Compass, which is a C-segment model, fits a very important niche for the company and the Jeep brand globally, noted Lyijynen. He said that although different continents have different sized vehicles in this segment, it is a high-volume segment globally. In addition, the company believes that SUVs are a growing market, in which the introduction of a C-segment model would help grow the Jeep brand further. Lyijynen also said that the Jeep Compass provides a unique business proposition, with the offering of the SUV in over 100 countries worldwide.

Many components in the Compass have been localised, noted Lyijynen. He said that global partners having a local supply base form a large part of the supply chain, but there are also a few purely local suppliers as well. FCA India has invested $ 280 million in the Jeep Compass project, which has been used in modifying the vehicle assembly line, as well as in setting up assembly lines for engines. The company also invested in the engineering and validation of localised components.

A major challenge while starting the Jeep Compass project was in designing a vehicle that would suit various markets around the world, noted Zheng. Aspects of internal space and external styling were looked into carefully, in order for these to be acceptable for all markets and consumers. Zheng added that another important mandate from the design perspective was to maintain the Jeep design DNA, which includes the signature seven-slat grille and trapezoidal wheel arches. The Compass is more in line with the Grand Cherokee in terms of design, to make that premium association of the Compass with the flagship Jeep model.

A key inspiration for the front-end design of the Jeep Compass was the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance jet, Zheng said.The slimmer seven-slat grill connects to the headlamp, resulting in a wide front-end graphic look, which is becoming a signature design cue for Jeep. He added that the taillamp of the SUV has a design reference to the Iron Man suit, with its very mechanical and purposefully built aspects.

The platform that the Compass is based on is not a completely new one, but one based on FCA's 'small wide4x4 architecture' that has been in use with the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. The platform has been stretched by about two inches to increase the wheelbase. Lyijynen said this platform provided tremendous efficiency, since it is a lighter weight platform and was consistent with other competitors in the C-segment from a dimensional standpoint.

In terms of the interior design, Zheng said that the geometry, design theme and surfacing are all identical to all Jeep Compass SUVs manufactured across the world. However, the minor change is in terms of a two-tone colour palate that is available exclusively for China and India, based on consumer feedback on the interiors, he added.

The Jeep Compass has dimensions measuring 1,667 x 1,819 x 4,398 x 2,636 (mm) for Height, Width, Length and Wheelbase, respectively, along with ground clearance of almost 180 mm. It has 17° approach and 32° departure angles, which would help in its off-road capability.Lyijynen said that the Compass has been tested over 26 million km over the last three years, to ensure that the vehicle can hold its own anywhere in the world, regardless of terrain and operating conditions.

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POWERTRAIN

The Jeep Compass is offered with 17 powertrain combinations globally, and in India it will be offered in both petrol and diesel variants. The 1.4 l Multi-Air petrol engine will develop over 160 hp of power and 250 Nm of torque. Lyijynen said that the petrol engine leverages the second-generation multi-air tube technology, which helps optimise air intake into the combustion chamber to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. This technology enables monitoring and direct controlling of the level of fuel and air mixture into the combustion chamber, for high combustion efficiency, he explained. This engine will be imported from the FCA facility in Italy.

Meanwhile, the 2 l turbodiesel engine will produce power in excess of 170 hp, along with 350 Nm of torque. This engine will have reduced particulate emissions, which is achieved by the use of a diesel particulate filter. The SUV will be offered with the option of a six-speed manual transmission, as well as a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic. FCA India noted that both these engines will be scalable to BS VI regulatory requirements in India.

SAFETY & CONVENIENCE

Jeep is proud to say that the Compass is offered with over 50 safety and security features. Standard safety features will include ABS, EBD, ESC, Hill-Start Assist, six airbags and all-wheel disc brakes. Other features include all-aluminium front and rear crumple zones, electronic rollover mitigation, traction control, windshield glass with anti-fog coating and cornering fog lamps. About 70 % of the Compass' body is made up of high tensile strength steel, which is formed by hot stamping process.

The Compass will be offered with the Active Drive 4x4 system with disconnecting rear drive shaft and power transfer unit (PTO). This system consists of a one-speed disconnecting PTO, multi-piece drive shaft, one-speed rear drive module with electronic control unit and a torque transfer device. The 4x4 system is engaged only when necessary in order to provide improved efficiency, with certain environmental conditions and driving styles causing the vehicle to seamlessly engage into 4x4 mode. Additionally, the brake lock differential is a traction control feature that offers similar performance to a locking differential.The Active Drive 4x4 system is further enhanced by Selec-Terrain traction management system, which offers all-weather capability in four modes - Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud.

The Jeep Compass features a number of technologies that ensure a high quality of ride comfort, noted Lyijynen. Frequency Sensitive Damping (FSD) shock absorbers, a feature most commonly found in high performance cars, comes standard on the Compass, he said. The FSD shock absorbers are a critical element in varying damping rates within the suspension to ensure that the vehicle is able to handle all kinds of terrain, explained Lyijynen.

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MANUFACTURING

An important part of FCA's local manufacturing facility is the metrology department, which houses the master body of the Jeep Compass that is used before the production and assembly of the vehicle. The metrology department carries out stringent quality audit processes. The body frame and parts are placed on the Meisterbock, which is an aluminium frame shouldering the master body. This master body is used to measure every gap and flushline, after which the components are verified. All this information that is collected is provided to suppliers, so they can provide components in the exact dimensions required to maintain proper fit and finish.

With the manufacture of the Jeep Compass, FCA India has introduced a range of industry-first technologies and production process. One of these is Hot Stamping, which is a process where ultra-high strength steel is formed into complex shapes more efficiently than with traditional cold stamping. FCA has used hot stamping that reinforces the frame, while being able to deliver a complex shape, to balance lightweight and strength. The Jeep Compass has 27 hot stamped parts, which is claimed to be the highest in the industry. Some of these hot stamped parts include the A-pillar, B-pillar, door beams and front rail.

Other industry-first processes include plasma cutting that is used to ensure precise hood and front bumper placement, as well as laser welding process that stitches the inner and outer door frames by remote lasers. The Compass features laser welding for the doors, at the rate of two stitches per second, making it a fast and accurate process that improves aesthetics, reduces weight and enhances durability.

Vision Cell System is another industry-first process, where high-quality cameras monitor the quality of parts produced in real-time, and also enables the precise application of 85-metres of 2K sealant on the body. The sealant makes the Compass highly-resistance to corrosion. The company carries out Inline Diagnostics with precision cameras verifying the underbody geometry, which is also a first for a 'Made in India'vehicle. A total of 34 cameras are present across the inline diagnostic rig to check consistency and screen imperfections.The company said the body shop of the Compass is a highly-automated one, with over 90 robots leading to 65 % automation, without any manual intervention.

All these processes come together at the time of assembly. FCA noted that the assembly line of the SUV is flexible, where the skillet on which the body is placed for assembly is a moveable platform. The doors are assembled separately for the SUV, and the materials used for the inner trim save 800 g on each door. Meanwhile, the seats are assembled at the supplier shop, and 1,000 seats had undergone 60 tests before the specification was finalised. The company uses a multi-step machine to ensure proper tyre alignment and balancing, and this is the first time such a machine has been used in India. With regards to quality, the company has achieved a first shot quality success rate of 97 %, which is said to be the highest in the industry.

With all these advanced manufacturing processes and technologies, FCA India is keen on ensuring the Jeep Compass is a product that will offer high levels of customer satisfaction. With relatively lower production costs and high-level of localised content, FCA India hopes to be able to offer its first made-in-India Jeep SUV at a good price. In fact, the company hopes that the pricing will be a key factor that will help draw consumers towards the Jeep brand in India.

TEXT: Naveen Arul

PHOTO: FCA India

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