Saturday, June 15, 2013

AEV Builds the Jeep that Jeep Should Have Built

Forbes Magazine published an article about American Expedition Vehicles' Jeep conversions that included some thoughtful insight about Jeep's position as an OEM as well as AEV's position at the high end of the 4x4 aftermarket.  The review of the Jeep centers around the 2013 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah but is primarily focused on the business side of the Jeep industry.  From the article:
Let’s face it: if you’re considering buying a Jeep Wrangler 4×4, it’s not for a comfortable plush interior, a high top speed, and it’s certainly not in the hopes of getting decent gas mileage.

You consider getting a Jeep because it’s a fun, rugged, extremely off-road capable vehicle that has a 70 year legacy and an enormous following with outdoor enthusiasts.
If you buy a Jeep Wrangler, then you own what is widely considered the best off-road vehicle you can buy.

But it’s not. It could be better…

And thanks to a quickly growing company called American Expedition Vehicles, now it can be. Jeep’s main focus is on profit and the ability to easily mass produce automobiles that satisfy a huge range of consumers. There is nothing wrong with that, but it goes against notions of passionate production and peak performance that enthusiasts are looking for.

Forbes' article discusses the success AEV has had with their Jeep Wrangler-based Brute pickup truck conversion - demonstrating to Chrysler the sizable demand for their own extremely offroad-capable Jeep pickup.  As I've mentioned before, Jeep may finally be developing a modern Jeep pickup of their own.

Forbes also brings to light the difference between AEV's product lineup, and that of other Jeep aftermarket companies.  Another quote from the article:
… off-road ability isn’t what makes AEV’s Jeeps special … Harriton explains that any decent off-road shop can build a vehicle that will climb rock walls and boulders like this. The trick is developing a vehicle that can also be used as a comfortable daily driver.
Off-road vehicles are usually built upon a series of modifications and compromises that make them uncomfortable and unstable on city streets and highways. Much of this has to do with the kind of suspension required for off-roading.

And it is AEV’s completely redeveloped suspension that Harriton is most proud. The suspension keeps the vehicle stable and smooth on the highway and city streets, while allowing full articulation and solid handling in the most extreme off-road environments you can imagine.

AEV redesigned the Jeep’s suspension from the ground-up, with the help of former Jeep engineers that Harriton has ushered into his fold. Their goal was to develop a vehicle that could be driven in serious off-road conditions, as well as on the freeway, without feeling that it was compromised in either element.

In this regard, I would say the American Expedition Vehicles has succeeded. The vehicle was able to tackle seemingly insurmountable obstacles off-road, and seamlessly transition to smooth, quiet, and stable freeway driving.
Regular readers of this blog will recall that after much research and debate, I decided on the AEV 3.5-inch DualSport suspension for my own Jeep.  To say that I am pleased with its broad range of capabilities is putting it mildly.  As a recent test drive of my Jeep by a friend and 4 Wheel Parts Service Manager demonstrated, the AEV suspension rides and drives better than a stock Wrangler while remaining fully capable of hardcore rockcrawling.  Coming from a highly-trained technician who installs, tweaks, and test-drives Jeeps with almost every available suspension kit, that's high praise - he was genuinely surprised and impressed by how much better my Jeep rides and drives than the countless other Jeeps he test-drives every day.

It's nice to see American ingenuity at the cutting edge of vehicular development.  AEV's engineering team has been recognized by Chrysler with multiple awards and partnerships.  From a business standpoint, Forbes also recognizes this leadership:
Using some of the best suppliers in the United States, AEV is able to custom order parts to their specific specifications or build in-house. It is part of a new birth of American automakers, and it is exclusive, high-end, and in direct contrast to what most people think about the American car industry.


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