Now that Fiat Chrysler picked its way through a logistics minefield, its engineers are reportedly preparing a ute variant for the next-generation Jeep Wrangler.
Through its sources, Automotive News believes that Jeep is working on a ute based on the next-generation Wrangler. At present, it's believed that the new Wrangler-based ute will debut in either 2017 or 2018.
The last time Jeep exhibited a Wrangler-style ute was in 2005 when it launched the Jeep Gladiator concept (above and below). Despite sharing the Wrangler's signature style, the Gladiator was actually based on the full-size Dodge Ram pickup truck.
Up until now, the stumbling blocks for the new Wrangler and any further derivates, such as a ute variant, revolved around Fiat's on-going US labour contract negotiations, and how to minimise or eliminate the down time normally required when retooling a factory for a new vehicle.
Complicating matters still further, the Wrangler shares its factory site in Toledo, Ohio, with the equally popular Cherokee. So far in the US this year, Jeep has sold 139,930 copies of the Wrangler and 140,888 editions of the Cherokee. Further expansion at the Toledo site is problematic, as it would begin encroaching on government-held land.
The industry publication believes that operational side of the equation has been solved. The new Wrangler will continue to be produced in its historic home in Toledo, while manufacturing of the Cherokee will move elsewhere, probably to plants in nearby Michigan or Illinois that produce that either the Chrysler 200 or Dodge Dart.
These sedans both share underpinnings and parts with the Cherokee, and the Dart has been a slow seller for the Italian-American company.
Earlier this year, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed that the new Wrangler will feature aluminium components in order to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency. Earlier suggestions that an all-aluminium body would be employed were ruled out due to cost issues.
Note: 2005 Jeep Gladiator concept truck shown in this article.