After claiming that the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs would use a variant of the next-generation Grand Cherokee’s unibody platform, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has changed its mind.
Speaking at the North American International Auto Show, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said the top-end SUVs will instead adopt body-on frame architecture. The change tosses the vehicles’ lofty predicted price ceiling — $140,000, according to Jeep boss Mike Manley — in the trash heap.
Both models are bound for FCA’s aging Warren truck plant, which will receive a much-needed cash injection. Describing Warren as being “in dire need of a substantial overhaul,” Marchionne claimed that a portion of the automaker’s $1 billion will help modernize and retool the plant after Ram 1500 production departs for Sterling Heights.
Since the word “Wagoneer” first left the lips of FCA executives, the trajectory of the two models has been a strange one. First, the two were rumored to simply be upper-level trims of the Grand Cherokees. FCA then clarified the roles, though both future models remained without a home as FCA shuffled U.S. production in a bid to boost Ram and Jeep output. While no longer assembly plant orphans, this latest news just adds to the unusual build-up.
Still, FCA’s greatest Jeep concern remains bringing the next-generation Wrangler to market. Describing it as “the perfect car,” Marchionne said boosted Wrangler output at the Toledo Assembly Complex (300,000 per year, on paper) will satisfy the global demand for the off-roader once the updated model comes online. “It fixes all the problems with the old car and keeps the identity of the Wrangler,” he said.
The new Wrangler will appear as a 2018 model, to be followed by a pickup variant, while the two luxury SUVs could appear as 2019 models.
What frame will the new SUVs use? The updated platform used by the next-gen Wrangler would be too narrow, leaving the next-gen Ram 1500 — due to start production in January 2018 — as a possibility, at least.