Machinery Chatter

Jeep Truck, Again

By Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
The Jeep Gladiator, launched in 2005, might be a precursor to a new Jeep pickup truck proposed for production beginning in 2017. (Photo Courtesy Fiat-Chrysler)

While Jeep has a long history of selling pickup trucks, it has not produced one in nearly 25 years because Chrysler -- and more recently the Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Group -- chose not to produce a second truck platform in competition with its own Ram brand pickups.

According to The Detroit News that is about to change. In a published report earlier this week from the 2016 North American International Auto Show (www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/detroit-auto-show/2016/01/11/jeep-confirms-pickup-new-suv-patriot-compass/78648152/), Jeep's global head Michael Manley tells a News writer that Jeep will produce a pickup truck based on the company's next-generator Wrangler Jeep. The Wrangler is expected to enter production in late 2017 and a truck will not come before then. Interestingly, Manley also is head of the Ram brand.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne tells The Detroit News that the Jeep pickup will be built in Toledo, Ohio, alongside the new Wrangler.

"Sergio and I work very, very closely on the Jeep product portfolio, and both of us have been a fan of a potential Wrangler pickup," Manley told The Detroit News. "For me, there is a historical place in our lineup for it." FCA is expected to provide more details later this month when it reveals its updated five-year plan to investors.

That Jeep has been interested in a new production truck is not new news. Industry watchers reported as recently as last fall that such a vehicle was coming in the next one, two or three years.

Jeep also has revealed in the past some of its truck design inclinations with concept models. The Jeep J-12 was produced for the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari off-roading event in 2012 (harkens back to Jeep's J-series models from the late 1960s with a six-foot bed; looks like grandpa's fishing truck, one Jeep designer was quoted as saying, admirably). The Jeep Gladiator was rolled out at the Detroit Auto Show in 2005 (shown here). The Gladiator also was the name of a full-sized truck Jeep produced until 1988.

Whether the coming truck will be full-sized or not, is not known. In addition to the full-size Gladiator, Jeep also produced the smaller-sized Comanche until 1992 (some under-100,000-mile models going for nearly $9,000 on the used truck market). But a little digging for information on a Jeep truck revealed a web page produced by DaimlerChrysler Media Services -- Chrysler was sold off from the German automaker nearly nine years ago -- revealing some detail about that 2005 concept Gladiator. See it here at: www.jeep.com/jeep_life/news/jeep/gladiator_concept.html

"The Jeep Gladiator is a lifestyle pick-up with all the capability of the famed Wrangler," the description reveals. "It is an authentic statement of Jeep brand heritage, featuring the historic box side-mounted spare of past models. Gladiator, the first 'Flexible Utility Truck' from Jeep features an open-air canvass top, an expandable truck bed and a stowaway rear seat cushion. And it has an extendable bed that can stretch from 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 8 inches to 8 feet 11 inches in mere seconds."

Jeep offered some general specifications, too. The Gladiator would weight about 4,150 pounds, be powered by a 2.8-liter turbo diesel engine and carry a manual five-speed transmission. It would have an overall length of 205 inches, a wheelbase of 138 inches and a height of nearly 75 inches. The concept Gladiator had 13.7 inches of ground clearance and roll on 265/75R18 tires.

News of a production Jeep truck is coming at an opportune time for the popular brand. Jeep recorded sales of more than 1.2 million units worldwide in 2015 -- the most in its 75-year history. That sales figure also set a global sales record for the fourth consecutive year. In the U.S., sales of 865,028 units bettered the 2014 total of 692,348 units by 25%.

"2015 marked the second consecutive year of more than 1 million Jeep vehicle sales across the globe, the sixth straight year of Jeep sales increasing globally and in the U.S., and the highest total in the brand's 75-year history," says Jeep/Ram's Manley.

In 2015, Jeep began local manufacturing in Brazil and returned to local manufacturing in China after an absence of nearly a decade. With that, Jeep is truly a global brand. Jeep sales rose 56% in the Europe, Middle East & Africa region and 135% in Latin America. December 2015 marked the highest monthly sales ever for the Jeep brand, both globally (127,879 units) and in the U.S. (89,654 units).

(JP/CZ)

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