Fiat Chrysler’s plan to expand Wrangler production in Toledo, Ohio, not only means a Wrangler-based pickup is on the way, but it makes possible a diesel-powered Wrangler for the U.S.
Wrangler diesels built in Toledo are sold in other parts of the world, but not in the United States. Jeep brand head Mike Manley has said he wants the pickup and a diesel Wrangler for the U.S. Because FCA already sells every Wrangler the plant can turn out — largely without incentives — those derivatives have had to wait, but that is about to change.
Automotive News reported last week that FCA will produce a Wrangler-based pickup in its Toledo Assembly Complex after a redesigned Wrangler begins production in 2017. Wrangler production will move from its current line to the other side of the manufacturing complex, where the unibody Jeep Cherokee is now assembled.
FCA built 235,948 Wranglers in Toledo in 2014, but the changes will increase capacity for the vehicle by 50 percent, making room for a pickup and possible diesel.
Both would be welcome additions, said Steven Wolf, who owns two large Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram stores in Houston and sells about 100 new Wranglers a month.
“I’ve had more people ask about a diesel Wrangler than I have about a pickup, but if pricing on the pickup is decent, it will sell,” Wolf said.
Jeep enthusiasts are speculating about what the pickup will look like. Jeep design head Mark Allen isn’t saying, but the Jeep design team has put together several Wrangler-based concept pickups over the years that may provide clues.
In 2005, the brand showed its Gladiator concept, which had an expandable truck bed with a stowaway rear-seat cushion and a detachable canvas roof that rolled up and stored behind the seat.
A big question has to do with the size of the Wrangler pickup. If it is too long, “it really starts to affect its off-road capabilities,” said AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan.
Sullivan said a small pickup, made by stretching the next-generation Wrangler’s frame, would be a formidable competitor because of its size and off-road capabilities.
“A Wrangler pickup is one of the few pickups that could get by with a bed smaller than a GMC Canyon or Chevy Colorado,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a crew cab.
“For people who want to go off-road,” Sullivan added, “being able to throw your muddy gear in the back of a bed is a very attractive option.”