Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has been in the news a lot lately for his comments about wanting to merge with General Motors. They’re having none of it over at GM, but Marchionne has still been busy figuring out what to do about Jeep production at the company’s Toledo, Ohio assembly plant. The Cherokee is moving, the Wrangler is staying put, and there are officially plans for a Wrangler pickup.
According to Automotive News, this will allow expanded production of the Wrangler, including a Wrangler pickup. They showed off a Wrangler-based Gladiator concept in 2005, but the drool-worthy vehicle seemed to disappear after that debut.
Marchionne has consistently said that he wants to keep the Wrangler in Toledo, which is happening, but the loss of the Cherokee will still be a disappointment to the plant. They had hoped to keep that one and expand Wrangler production at the same time, which turned out not to be possible.
There are actually two plants in the Toledo complex with one body-on-frame plant that builds the Wrangler and a second large unibody plant that builds the Cherokee. The Cherokee has been Jeep’s best-selling vehicle through August with sales of 17,611 per month. If the Wrangler pickup proves to be a hot seller, this might lessen the blow for Toledo.
They’re definitely holding onto the Wrangler for awhile, with a retool in the works to produce the redesigned 2018 model. Expectations are for new Wrangler production to hit 350,000 units per year.
As for the Cherokee it will probably move to Sterling Heights Assembly in Michigan or Belvidere Assembly in Illinois. Neither would require much retooling to start building the Cherokee since both already build cars that share the same platform.
The big news, however, is confirmation that a Wrangler pickup isn’t just a dream. Marchionne confirmed that it’s going to happen, but didn’t given any details about his master plan. Those will come after UAW contract talks are over. That contract expires on the 14th so it won’t be too long a wait to find out more about this pickup.
Speculation is that the Wrangler pickup could debut in 2017 or 2018 as it’s already under development. FCA wouldn’t comment beyond Marchionne’s statements, so it’s time to hurry up and wait and see what Jeep will be giving Wrangler enthusiasts over the next few years.