His German colleagues and relatives thought Busse had eaten the fruit of the Wackberry tree, but he and his family liked America, and he liked a challenge - even if the challenge was hanging out in one of those bankruptcy chapters.
The interior design for the Grand Cherokee he supervised proved fresh and lovely. But then, when you are designing an upmarket vehicle that tops out at more than $60,000, you have some money in the budget for niceties like leather and exotic veneers.
So, I asked him, what was it like to try to be creative on the interior budget that came with the Cherokee, a ride that starts at $22,995?
"It's always easier to do something beautiful with a bigger budget," he replied. "What you want to do [with a relatively low budget like the Cherokee's] is try to outsmart the competition with clever solutions. You try to be smart and not spend money left and right."
One of the ways you do that, he suggested, is to find attractive, imaginative ways to use that lowliest of interior materials: plastic. An example: Intrigued by the smooth river stones he found on a Michigan vacation, he employed the stones' look and feel on some of the Cherokee's plastic trim.
"If you use plastic the right way, it can be exquisite," Busse concluded.
What struck me, when I subsequently drove several Cherokee models during a regional show-and-tell, was that even the least-expensive model, the Sport, did not look cheap inside. The plastic surfaces were tasteful and soft-touch, and the upholstery fabrics were attractive.
The Cherokee is, of course, more than a pretty cabin, but is it more than a compact crossover? If it is a midsize, as Jeep contends, it's a rather smallish one. The Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are termed compacts, and they are less than four inches shorter than the 182-inch Cherokee.
The Cherokee is built off of a Fiat pleasure-car platform that has been widened and beefed up for off-road use. The new drivetrains include a 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter version of Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, a 184-horse four that employs Fiat multi-air technology, and a first for the Cherokee's class: a nine-speed automatic transmission.
That transmission, when offered with the four-banger and front-drive, gives the Cherokee a best-in-class EPA highway rating of 31. (Yes, I did say the Cherokee is offered with front drive. That may be heresy to Jeep purists, but there are lots of folks in the crossover crowd who like the front-driver's lower initial cost and better mileage.)
Those purists needn't fear that the Cherokee is not a Jeep, by the way. I drove the Trailhawk model ($29,495), the most off-road-capable Cherokee, and was blown away. With its increased clearance, sophisticated four-wheel-drive with low-range gearing, locking rear differential, and electronics that tailor engine mapping, shift points, and torque distribution to specific driving conditions, the Trailhawk made a very difficult collection of rocks and ruts seem like a walk in the park.