Anonymous sources have told Automotive News that the next-generation Wrangler, expected to debut in 2017, will carry on with a body-on-frame layout. If true, this could represent a step back from statements made by Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne earlier this month.
During Marchionne's press conference at the Paris motor show, he said that the next-generation Wrangler could use aluminium for its body and employ smaller, turbocharged engines. Both of these measures would reduce weight and improve fuel consumption.
Despite the added costs involved with an aluminium intensive structure, sources indicate that management is leaning towards such a solution as it will help the company meet upcoming US government mandates regarding fuel economy.
The CEO also implied that the 2017 Wrangler would make the shift to unibody construction, by nominating several unibody-only Fiat Chrysler plants that could build the new model. This not only ignited debate among Jeep enthusiasts, but also prompted a severe backlash from leaders and workers in the city of Toledo, Ohio where the Wrangler is currently produced.
The trade publication notes that 12 days after Fiat Chrysler met with Toledo city officials to talk about its plans for the manufacturing plant, the city council purchased 13 hectares of land next to the production facility. That parcel of land, bought for US$9.4 million ($10.7 million), could now be used to expand the Toledo plant, although both the city and Chrysler have refused to comment about this transaction.
If an expansion does occur, it could help to help minimise the amount of down time between the current and the new model. This could have been an important consideration for the company, given the high profit margins attached to the Wrangler, and the expected difficulty in converting the plant from steel-based construction to aluminium.