We know it’s coming. Jeep CEO Mike Manley, while speaking at the North American International Auto Show, definitively stated the next-generation Wrangler will spawn a pickup. However, nobody has said anything about what the soup base for this new Wrangler stew is going to use.
When Jeep showcased the Gladiator pickup concept way back in the DaimlerChrysler era, it was built using Ram 1500 framework. It was a truck converted into a Wrangler essentially, instead of a Wrangler modified into the pickup format. While it’s been a decade since that concept saw the light of day, its recipe might still be the one FCA uses for a modern-day incarnation.
There’s evidence to support that claim, but — be warned — there is also speculation ahead.
Initially, the pickup was intended to coincide with the release of the updated JL Wrangler. Then Manley told The Detroit News that the JT pickup — which FCA hasn’t yet given an official name — wouldn’t begin production until the end of 2019. This will follow FCA’s conversion of its Toledo North Assembly Plant from unibody to body-on-frame production. During retooling, current JK Wranglers will continue assembly at the complex’s South Assembly Plant.
However, Automotive News’ Fiat Chrysler expert Larry Vellequette says he has inside information that the Southern Plant is shutting down in April 2018 specifically because the JT pickup is too long for the paint shop at the Ohio factory. That doesn’t exactly convince me that FCA will use 1500 architecture. After all, who wouldn’t have thought the Wrangler pickup was going to be a longer vehicle? Early spy shots show it looking several inches longer than the JK, and that could just be down to the addition of the bed and some overhang.
It isn’t quite an a-ha moment, but Vellequette also reminded readers that FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has mentioned the possibility of Mexican Ram production returning back to the United States — especially if Donald Trump begins throwing around those import tariffs he’s been talking about. FCA may even already be making plans to repatriate its trucks. If so, platform sharing the JT with the 1500 would make good financial sense.
The bottom line: we still don’t know if Jeep’s pickup will use the next-generation JL Wrangler frame, the older JK chassis, or make use of Ram 1500 framework. While this news does make the latter option possible, it’s by no means an assurance. In the end, it might not even matter. Wrangler loyalists are exactly that — loyal. Provided it looks and feels like their beloved 4×4, it should sell regardless of what underpins it.
(Although, I’m curious which platform off-road enthusiasts prefer to see.)