FEARS THAT the next-generation Jeep Wrangler would be 'watered down', built atop a global platform shared across multiple Fiat and Chrysler models, have been put to rest.
Speaking with The Detroit News this week, Jeep boss Mike Manley confirmed that the Wrangler's platform will be exclusive to that model. It's a rare concept in a market now built around shared platforms, but an absolute necessity, according to Manley.
Under Chrysler's new five-year plan revealed by new CEO Sergio Marchionne last year, the current Wrangler is due for two major updates - one later this year, driven by customer feedback, and a final upgrade late next year. Chrysler's new Pentastar V6 is expected to figure among the updates.
Down the road, the Wrangler will use one of two platforms being developed by Fiat and Chrysler for vehicles of its size - but while one of those platforms will be shared, the second will belong entirely to the Wrangler.
Manley confirmed that while the Wrangler will have its own purpose-built platform, it may not be limited to just one bodystyle for much longer. In an effort to squeeze more volume and opportunities out of the Wrangler-specific platform, Chrysler is considering offering variants, including a ute.
"I'd love to do (a pickup) as well, but it must be the right time," Manley said. "It is not imminent."
The Wrangler remains Jeep's best-selling model worldwide. In the US, some 82,000 were sold in 2009. Locally, Jeep Australia sold 732 Wranglers in 2009, and 235 so far this year. It's closest local competitor is the Cherokee, with 149 sold year to date, and 333 in 2009.
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee is scheduled to go into production this May, with a late 2010 or early 2011 Australian debut expected.