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Higher than anticipated demand for the JK-8 Independence conversion kit, designed to turn a Jeep Wrangler into a pickup truck, led Mopar division president Pietro Gorlier joking that,” Santa Claus is coming early.”
Given that orders for the kits are now outstripping original estimates (400 sales so far versus 250-300), clearly Christmas has arrived early for both Jeep enthusiasts and dealers alike.
It also shows there’s pent up demand for a factory built Jeep pickup, giving further traction to the idea that such a vehicle, based on the Wrangler might materialize down the road.
It’s no secret that Jeep brand president Mike Manley is a fan of the concept and now, Gorlier’s stance seems to echo Manley’s sentiments, the Mopar chief stating that, “when we go to the next generation of the Wrangler, (a pickup) will probably be considered.”
At present, the Wrangler is Jeep’s best selling SUV, so far some 111,045 units have been delivered this year, quite impressive for a vehicle that hasn’t seen a major update since 2006. And, given vehicle life cycles these days, an updated Wrangler probably isn’t too far off.
When it does eventually materialize, based on current demand from the JK-8 kits, having a pickup would no doubt bolster sales of the existing Wrangler lineup. It could also draw in buyers from other small pickups who, next year, will have very few options when it comes to new, compact truck offerings.
In the meantime, Mopar plans on supplying as many JK-8 kits as it can to dealers, though given the size of each package, it’s proving difficult for them to carry a large amount in stock. “The kit is too big and too complex to have too many on the shelf,” remarked Gorlier. That said he’s enthusiastic about the response so far. “It’s exciting for an aftermarket product.”
[Source: Ward's Auto]
Although Chrysler is maintaining that it’s current priorities still lie elsewhere, the concept of a Jeep pickup remains near and dear for the brand’s CEO John Manley.
Although he said there are currently no resources available to work on a Jeep pickup at this time, Manley reiterated that “the idea continues to progress because of interest in the vehicle.”
However, in order to eventually get the green light, such a project might need to be tailored to markets outside North America, particularly parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, where small, crew cab, four-cylinder pickups have been popular for decades.
What form the Jeep truck will take remains to be seen. A production version of the Wrangler based ‘Gladiator’ concept might be one, which would surely make it one of the most unique trucks sold anywhere in the world.
In order to compete in international markets, said truck would likely boast a 1 metric ton payload capacity (2,205 lbs), though a business case for it would also hinge on the ability to produce and sell it in various markets, taking into consideration manufacturing locations available as well as import/export laws and tariffs.
If a Jeep pickup does ultimately get the go ahead it probably won’t be for the next few years, as Chrysler continues to focus on more immediate product introductions in the wake of its corporate re-structuring. Nevertheless, Manley remains quietly optimistic about the truck’s prospects. “It’s something of huge interest to me,” he says.
[Source: Pickup Trucks.com]
The vehicle in question is said to resemble the 2005 Jeep Gladiator concept, using the Wrangler Unlimited platform but with two-doors and a bed in the rear. Said to be headed into production in 2011, it should arrive on dealer lots in 2012.
PickupTrucks.com reports that Jeep brand CEO Mike Manley has expressed interest in the past in building a small pickup, due to their popularity throughout the world. Plus, the creation of a small pickup for the Jeep brand would certainly work with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plan to expand the Chrysler brands internationally.
Jeep hasn’t offered a pickup model since the Jeep Comanche ended production in 1992.
GALLERY: Jeep Gladiator Concept
Dominating the headlines following Chrysler‘s first dealer meeting in three years yesterday was news of a new Viper planned for 2012. But apart from headline-grabbing sports cars, Chrysler execs made plenty of comments regarding the company’s commitment to the truck and SUV segment.
For the new RAM brand, CEO Fred Diaz commented that his team is studying bringing a “Baby Ram” to market, with an estimated 30-mpg and room for four. This could replace the Dodge Dakota as RAM’s entry-level work truck, with a next-generation Dakota confirmed to take more of a lifestyle direction.
The RAM brand also has plans to target lifestyle truck buyers with a luxurious “Longhorn” model that will debut at the Texas State Fair in two weeks. RAM execs didn’t comment on if it would bear any resemblance to the Mopar Dodge Ram Bianco model shown at last year’s SEMA Show. The truck will, however, feature a Longhorn logo that can be removed from the floor mat and used as a belt buckle.
As for features, the “Ram Box” storage area currently found on the 1500 model trucks, will be made available on the 2500 and 3500 heavy duty work trucks.
And finally, Jeep execs hinted at expanding their lineup to include a pickup truck, rolling out what is believed to be the Jeep Gladiator Concept from several years back. Jeep execs would not comment on if this model was slated for production.