By on October 6, 2015

jeep_j8

Jeep is a pillar of financial strength for FCA. The brand is poised to deliver its sixth consecutive year of growth. Even if you despise the Compass and Patriot, it would be difficult to argue that Jeep CEO Mike Manley has been anything but a good steward of the brand.

But how is Jeep going to keep its 6,500 UAW members in Toledo working after 2017 when the Cherokee departs and there’s a gaping 240,000 unit hole to fill? Uncertainty over how this gap will be filled, in conjunction with the failure of union negotiators to eliminate the two-tier wage system, were the primary factors in a strong no vote from UAW members in Toledo last week. Nonetheless, FCA has a unique opportunity to address their workforces’ legitimate concern over job security, give consumers what they want, and find new homes for Jeep products across the globe.

The Wrangler has long been Jeep’s cornerstone, an iconic yet niche product. As recently as 2005, only 87,000 Wranglers were produced. Given the historically narrow appeal of the Wrangler and Jeep’s drive for expansion, the brand has acted responsibly by developing new nameplates. In 2006, Commander was added, joined by Compass and Patriot in 2007, and this year saw the launch of the reborn Renegade as a standalone model. Today’s Jeep dealer offers no fewer than six different nameplates, double what was available in 2005. This growth strategy was well timed for today’s SUV/CUV crazed market. However, the market continues to move and the Wrangler is hot. Domestic Wrangler sales alone will top 230,000 units this year.

It is time to go big. No, I am not suggesting Jeep produce Hellcat Wranglers or launch a Hummer H1-style Super Wrangler. Instead, I am calling for FCA to wrap itself in a halo of eight different Wranglers across two wheelbases. These would include the traditional two-and four-door Wranglers we know, the all-but-certain single and double cab pickups, and a long wheelbase, hard-top wagon. That’s makes five. To get to eight, Jeep should go further and offer both pickups and the long-wheelbase wagon in heavy-duty form.

aev_brute_doublecab_utah_setting

FCA needs to participate in the rebounding small/mid-size pickup segment, and we already know the Wrangler has been selected for the task. Jeep has been running flat-out for several years trying to meet rising Wrangler demand. The accepted wisdom, as demonstrated by the recent UAW contract vote, is that Wrangler pickups alone cannot make up for the production shortfall in a post-Cherokee Toledo. But there is good news. When FCA committed to converting Toledo North to body-on-frame production, it gave Jeep an opportunity to go beyond a simple capacity increase by specifying larger production line carriers capable of handling units longer than the current 116-inch wheelbase Wrangler Unlimited. This is pivotal because larger carriers are prerequisite unless you want a double-cab Wrangler pickup with a nearly useless Ford Explorer Sport Trac-style short bed.

How many Wranglers can Jeep sell? Jeep will strain to produce 230,000 this year for domestic consumption, plus another 30,000 for international markets. Nobody knows how much more demand there is, but removing the capacity constraint will help. A 15-percent increase would be reasonable and suggests demand for about 300,000 traditional two-and four-door Wranglers.

What does demand look like for Wrangler pickups? Last year, Bob Sheaves, former Senior Design Engineer at DaimlerChrysler, wrote about an estimated demand for 40,000 single-cab Wrangler pickups. That seems optimistic given that GM and Toyota have elected not to offer single cab versions of their midsize trucks in North America. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Mr. Sheaves knows something we do not. Nonetheless, perhaps half of those 40,000 single cabs will come at the expense of other Wranglers. Demand for double cabs with five-foot beds will undoubtedly be higher and could exceed 60,000 units in North America, slightly less than the North American total for the third-place Nissan Frontier. About twenty-percent of Wrangler double-cabs will likely come at the loss of Wrangler Unlimiteds. These estimates result in 100,000 pickup sales, with a net increase of 65,000 new sales across the Wrangler family. Add these to the 300,000 two-and four-door traditional Wranglers and Jeep would have a total of 365,000 units, still about 25-percent short of FCA’s stated target of producing half a million Jeeps a year in Toledo — a significant factor in workers’ emphatic down vote on their new contract.

Why not offer heavy-duty versions of both pickups and the long-wheelbase wagon? Answer: Panic over Ram 1500 cannibalization, a fear that needs to be debunked. Manufacturers overlap their B, C, and D segment cars — why not trucks? GM did the analysis, took the risk, and demonstrated that product overlap across their truck lines do not inevitably lead to one model consuming the other. GM is on pace to deliver ten-percent growth in Silverado this year, plus 124,000 of its Colorado/Canyon twins.

Don’t fear the cannibal, FCA. You have a unique opportunity to find new customers without consuming yourself.

Additional objections to HD Wranglers may include excessive development cost, over-stretched engineering resources, and additional production complexity.

FCA will continue offering the J8 alongside the next generation Wrangler, and there will be demand from J8’s small customer base for long-wheelbase versions. Thus, aside from the regulatory hoops these HD units would need to pass through, a material portion of the development cost has already been committed, thus decreasing the additional expense required for development.

Just as preexisting J8 work mitigates some development cost, it also provides leverage for the engineering effort of a heavy-duty Wrangler. The differences in standard and HD Wranglers would not be tremendous because HD models would not need to achieve J8’s 2,600 pound payload capacity, extreme air filtration, or helo-lift requirement. Wrangler HDs would be a J8 “light”.  They could be equipped similarly to J8 with full-floating front hubs, while standard units retain their semi-floating setup. Out back, HDs can either be leaf sprung, like J8, or adopt a Ram-like coil arrangement. And the structural enhancements associated with the J8 can also be selectively adopted to deliver a highly capable, well-differentiated HD Wrangler.

The J8 is a well-engineered enhancement of the Wrangler, designed specifically for an intense duty cycle in sub-Saharan conditions. But for those thinking J8 is a full tactical, military-grade product, I can attest having driven and inspected them, they are not. Jeep dug into the FCA parts bin whenever possible, and made J8 simple enough for assembly from CKD (Knock-Down Kit) in Egypt.

For example, J8 borrows the NV241 transfer case with a 4.10:1 final drive ratio from the Wrangler Rubicon and the rear brakes are sourced from Ram. The unique air filtration is an aftermarket bolt-on, and the afterthought second battery is located in the rear cargo area. Make no mistake, the J8 tackles obstacles like a mountain goat — my effort to get one stuck on the worst FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds could offer was my absolute failure and the J8’s success.

Capabilities aside, manufacturing eight different Wranglers, three to J8 “light” spec, in a serialized production environment would not require significant effort — particularly if standard and HD Wranglers are developed in parallel. The differences would be bolt-on and component replacement, not structural. In fact, the delta between standard and HD Wranglers would be less pronounced than those between Ram 1500 and 2500, which are produced at the same plant in Saltillo, Mexico.

The benefits of including heavy-duty Wranglers in the product mix are manifold. These HD models would address FCA’s Toledo production gap and kill two valuable birds with a single platform: step-up consumers and international markets.

Step-up buyers are the consumers Ford, GM and FCA already know well. These are the guys who believe more is always better and buy three-quarter and one-ton trucks to accomplish what today’s half-ton truck is easily capable. In order to appeal to these customers, Jeep needs to increase Wrangler’s powertrain selection from one to three. The next generation Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 can continue to provide motivation, as well as one additional gas and one diesel option. There have been rumors of everything from a supercharged 3.2-liter V-6 to a Pentastar derived 4.8-liter V-8 — either would work. But given Ford’s success with its 3.5-liter twin-turbo Ecoboost in the F-150 and Expedition, Jeep should consider a similar approach. Jeep’s likely choice for a diesel would be the next-generation 3.0-liter VM Motori mill that is offered in today’s Ram 1500 and Grand Cherokee where is delivers 420 lb-ft of torque and class leading fuel economy. Assuming the availability of power plants like these, the value of an HD badge among domestic customers should not be underestimated and would provide Jeep with a product capable of conquest sales across a wide spectrum of full-size truck buyers. Could Jeep convince three-percent of full-size truck shoppers to switch to Wrangler? How about two-percent? Let’s assume Jeep converted just 1.5-percent of North American full size truck buyers to Wrangler. That would equate to 37,000 new customers, driving up average transaction prices along the way.

Toyota Landcruiser 70 Troop Carrier Workmate

A set of three HD Wranglers would not only bring the latest advances in safety and emissions technology to the Jeep product range, but new capabilities as well, enabling the brand to transition from a consumer-oriented SUV and CUV specialist into a broader manufacturer addressing retail as well as commercial markets. Land Rover is on the cusp of building its last real Defender in January, leaving the 30-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser 70-Series alone in an international space — a space in which the Wrangler is primed to thrive. Land Rover will sell 23,000 Defenders this year and Toyota sells about 80,000 70-Series Land Cruisers annually, but both the Toyota and the Land Rover are inefficient, unsafe, antiquated designs.

The longevity of the 70-Series has been uncertain for years, but not for lack of demand. The problem is safety and the difficulty of bringing the 70-Series up-to-date would be akin to Apple offering iOS 9 updates for the original Mac. Specifically, Toyota is encountering safety related obstacles in attempting to satisfy its large fleet operators.

For example, mining giant BHP Billiton is now requiring their global fleets to conform to safety requirements the 70-Series is challenged to meet. And the drive for safer more efficient utility vehicles is not limited to mine operators. The UN, a bellwether in procurement policy for humanitarian, commercial, and government fleet operators worldwide, recently promulgated new Sustainably Procurement Guidelines. These vehicle procurement guidelines favor fuel economy and emissions over vehicle price. Pedestrian safety, a weakness for the 70-Series, is also encompassed in the guidelines. Australia’s version of the NHTSA, the ANCAP, gives the current 70-Series a 3.8 out of 36 possible points for pedestrian safety. The current Wrangler is no pedestrian safety overachiever, but its score is 37-percent higher than the 70-Series at 5.2. However, the Toyota will retain the update-resistant 70-Series platform, while the all new Wrangler will benefit from advances made since the Mac was available with 128k of RAM.

A new Wrangler lineup would also outflank the Toyota in terms of performance, operating cost and emissions. A Land Cruiser double cab pickup equipped with its most powerful engine, the 4.5-liter turbo diesel produces 317 ft-lb of torque, delivers 20 mpg combined, and generates 306 (g/km) in CO2 emissions. A Wrangler HD double cab, when equipped with the current VM Motori 3.0-liter turbo diesel, would produce about 420 ft-lb of torque. Assuming Wrangler comes in at a weight similar to the 5,200 to 5,600lb Ram 1500, the HD Wrangler would deliver about 24 mpg city, and generate 198 (g/km) in CO2 emissions. In short, an HD Wrangler would yield few measurable advantages to the Land Cruiser.

017-2015-easter-jeep-safari-concepts

Additionally, Jeep can step into the international light-utility market as no other company can. The company not only has access to FCA’s international footprint, but it enjoys global brand recognition unprecedented for a company that has not meaningfully participated in global markets for decades (with the exception of selling t-shirts and key chains). However, the 70-Series is a sound product sold by an international heavyweight with a 30 year head start and success is not determined based on quantifiable advantages alone. The Wrangler is therefore unlikely to achieve sector dominance, but it may reasonably expect to earn a 25-percent market share, or about 25,000 units annually.

Two Wrangler pickups plus a long-wheelbase wagon, similar to the Wrangler Africa concept Jeep prepared for the 2015 Easter Jeep Safari, would make Jeep an instant international player in the light-duty utility market with products measurably superior to the competition and directly addressing commercial, government and NGO buyers.

Add international sales to the domestic HD opportunity and Jeep’s three HD Wranglers would tally 60,000 units or more annually. Total domestic and international demand for the Wrangler family would exceed 425,000 units, enough to satiate Mr. Marchionne, the UAW, and customers around the world.

It’s rare that a manufacturer has a nameplate with the equity, sales tailwind and near empty competitive landscape that currently sits before the Wrangler. The product strategy proposed here would have been risky ten years ago and it may not work if launched ten years from now. Don’t be incremental, FCA. Competition is fierce, success fleeting and markets shift. Leverage the Wrangler opportunity now. Go big!

Seth Parks is a 20 year car industry veteran. Seth’s first job, way back when Broncos still roamed free, was as a lot attendant at a Ford store outside Seattle. He has been involved in the auto industry in one way or another ever since, doing time as a car salesman, finance manager, and sales manager. He later did fleet acquisition and management in Africa and, more recently, he sat on the board of a performance aftermarket auto parts distributor. Seth is presently the CEO of Turbo International, a manufacturer of OE replacement turbochargers for the global aftermarket, and he still loves cars, trucks and pretty much anything with an engine that moves. You can find him on Twitter at mseth_parks.

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62 Comments on “The Untapped Potential of Wrangler...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Thank you for putting a bio on your article, so we know who you are.

    Good write-up, you’ve thought about Jeep a lot. What sort of potential do you see for the theoretical upcoming super-lux Grand Wagoneer return?

    IMO, I keep thinking they will do one or more of the following to it:
    -Overprice
    -Parts-bin sharing
    -Lacking interior appointment quality
    -Poor advertising

    • 0 avatar
      Sutures

      “IMO, I keep thinking they will do one or more of the following to it:
      -Overprice
      -Parts-bin sharing
      -Lacking interior appointment quality
      -Poor advertising”

      All of the above… they already said it was a Jeep.

    • 0 avatar
      Seth Parks

      Thanks for your kind words – glad you liked the article.

      The Grand Wagoneer is something to get excited about. But not becasue it will be a Range Rover equivalent, like Mr. Marchionne has suggested. It will still be a Jeep. But it should give FCA/Jeep something to attract Tahoe and Expedition customers with. I am personally excited becasue there are few legit off-road options with three rows.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    “In short, an HD Wrangler would yield few measurable advantages to the Land Cruiser.”

    The Land Cruiser 70’s strength lies in what looks like mediocre numbers on paper. By not stretching the platform’s capabilities (ie good numbers), they are able to bake in A LOT of durability.

    I fully support this plan, but doesn’t fly in the face of CAFE? Just give me a hardtop 4 door wrangler with some cargo room and I won’t complain!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I feel like the LC70 also sells on generations of “Sahara adventure Bombay gin United Nations” appeal, which is what sells a lot of the luxury LC and LX in the US. But no matter how much they diversify the Wrangler line, it’s not going to have that same appeal.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Don’t you be knocking Bombay, the queen approves so much they put her picture on the bottle.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Bombay is a good gin! No knocking. I would place it for taste and quality a little above Beefeater, and on par (but different, more citrus than) Tanqueray, and below in flavor (and price) to Hendrick’s.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Hendricks?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh yes, it’s very excellent. The cucumber really comes through, and it’s a smooth and lovely thing.

            https://us.hendricksgin.com/

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Bombay is my choice of gin — it’s the best at its price point, cheaper price points taste like armpit stank, and I can’t justify going more expensive.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            If you must do a value gin, I think the best choice there is Gordon’s. It’s pretty smooth and inoffensive, and if you look at the back of the bottle is owned by, and made in the same place as, Tanqueray.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have never heard of Henricks but have sampled most other forms of gin available here, and Bombay/Bombay Sapphire is the clear winner.

            Oh on half decent bargain brand liquor, when the Captain is too expensive we go with Admiral Nelson. Since he’s an admiral he’s better too.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It was my winner also, til I had Hendricks. It’s about $8 I think more expensive than Bombay. Haven’t bought it myself yet, because I feel bad enough buying Bombay.

          • 0 avatar
            bills79jeep

            Doubling up on CoreyDL’s recommendation. Gordons is a great value if you’re planning on only making cocktails anyway. Plus, every time you drink it you can sing, “Trust the Gordon’s gin man” to yourself. Catchy jingle

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Wait isn’t it “trust the Gorton’s fisherman”?

          • 0 avatar
            bills79jeep

            28Cars – Yes, it is. I think it’s missing a syllable, but you can make it work.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            Corey, you know your gins

            Hendricks is excellent. The sapphire version is way too much going on, but regular Bombay is solid though no Hendricks. What’s crazy is that the h can cost forty or twenty two depending where you buy

            Ditto on Gordon’s. I am 37 and an avid gin mixer since 18. I drank a lot of Gordon’s – it’s inoffensive to a fault. But i switched to new Amsterdam for good cheap fun though, and haven’t looked back.

            I have gotten into locally made gins now. You need refinement for the perfect g&t, but I seek nuance in my negroni. Fun drink.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Why thank you. Only got into gin recently, I decided I needed to drink more like an adult, and I prefer to stick to clear liquors in general.

            I forgot temporarily about New Amsterdam! It’s got a sweeter taste than most, and is probably smoother even than Gordon’s. To me there are strong notes of vanilla in it, less so of citrus or juniper. For a more modern cheap gin, New Amsterdam wins. For the Ye Olde Gin of an older clientele, Gordon’s.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I think most purchasers of LC70 “troopies” and “utes” aren’t buying anything on “appeal,” they just need something that works and won’t leave them stranded.

        Land Cruisers over here in the US are bought by generations of well to do New Englanders, and various immigrants with a bit of coin (Africans, Eastern Europeans, etc). And yes there is that “my $500 ARB cooler didn’t keep my Riesling at the right temperature” overlanding crowd.

        If I had the means to comfortably afford it, I’d walk down to the Toyota dealership right now and scoop up a green 200 series. When I was in Siberia this summer, I saw as many 100 and 200 series Land Cruisers as I do full size BOF GM SUVs here in the Midwest, it was insane. Over there it’s almost just assumed that as soon as you have the means, you buy a LandCruiser. The really flashy guys get Lexus LX570s to stand out, the serious offroaders get older JDM 80 series trucks, Prado 70s, or LC 105s with solid front axles and stick shifts. Lower on the totem pole are Prado 90s and 120s (read: GX470), they are second in popularity after the full size Cruisers.

    • 0 avatar
      Seth Parks

      It’s no formula for CAFE success, but these would all rate as light-trucks, so the CAFE hit is not so bad. What FCA really needs to do is develop good cars so they can off-set their success with trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Tiny margins in small non luxury cars, unfortunately. The Detroit 3 might as well blend their compact offerings into a single car and badgeneer them to suit. This is where Marchionne’s merger talk makes sense.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Or they can stop being pansies and build something strong enough to support a GVWR over 8,500lbs, reap the benefits of getting around the same MPG standards as the 1/2 trucks.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I like this idea, Wranglers are popular. However with any increase in size or new version, all roads lead to the Hemi. While fanboys might wet themselves over the thought of a diesel, I’d venture to say the NEW take rake is going to be exceedingly low. Plus, a big ole diesel is heavy.

    Not that fuel economy really matters for these, but I can’t honestly see the difference between a hemi and a pentastar being substantial.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I don’t know that that VM 3L diesel he was suggesting is all that heavy; I mean, it’s not 1978, anymore. Modern diesels aren’t overbuilt tractor engines with a low power:weight ratio.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with a V8 in a heavy-duty light truck, of course…

  • avatar
    Feds

    What is this? Actual considered analysis on TTAC? What year is this?

    My experience with the current Wrangler is this: A year ago I was shopping for a new car. I test drove a loaded Unlimited, and was ready to take the Jeep plunge.

    What stopped me? Towing capacity and a centre differential. For a body on frame, 285hp truck, 3,500 lbs is silly. I don’t tow crazy, but my popup trailer with gear on it gets pretty damned close to that. And for $35,000 plus, the exclusion of an AWD mode in the transfer case is unforgivable, especially since such a transfer case has existed in the parts bin for ~30 years. I ended up going smaller on that vehicle (into a 160 hp, unibody Grand Vitara, with a 3,000 lb tow rating and AWD + Locking centre dif + low range), and using my Delica as my tow vehicle (rated at 5,000 lbs, also AWD+Locking+low range).

    So, I agree. An HD jeep with a little more capacity would have earned a sale. Not a cannibalized Dodge sale, not a cannibalized jeep sale. Just a new sale that wanted a 4 door Wrangler that could tow ~5,000 lbs.

    I’d love to think I’m unique, but I’m just a dad with 3 kids who likes to camp comfortably, run forest roads and travel a lot in the winter.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Excellent point on the lack of a “unlocked” high range in 4wd. Seeing as how Unlimiteds sell primarily to families and basically a lot of the same folks that bought an Explorer in the 1990s, incorporating Jeep’s old “selec-trac” (NP-242 transfer case) would make a heck of a lot of sense for winter road driving. I’m sad that SR5 and Trail 4Runners are also strictly part-time, makes no sense to regress like that since the previous 03-09 trucks had that ability, and even late model 3rd gen 4Runners had a “multi-mode” transfer case. Same story for the Xterra I recently test drove, part time only. If it had a full time mode, I would have a big reason to pick it over a 4Runner.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Interesting, that’s the first I’ve heard of someone requesting an AWD transfer case on a Wrangler. I think it’s a good idea too, it’s just that the complaints usually run the other way. That AWD transfer cases on “4×4” vehicles aren’t “true” 4WD.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Danio, you can have your cake and eat it too! The “Selec-trac” I’m talking about and Toyota’s “multi-mode” systems still have setting for a “hard” 50/50 front to rear lock in the transfer case, but on top of that have a “full time” setting where the center differential is unlocked. They are every bit as hardcore and durable as a simpler part time case, you just have more options.

        Toyota’s LandCruiser is a full-time system with a center diff lock and low range, so a vehicle having “AWD” functionality does not in any way imply it’s some wimpy soft roader with an overheating viscous coupling that gives up the ghost the very first time you plow through some deeper snow.

        Heck, you can still have a manual lever for the t-case too! Toyotas typically had/have a button for the center diff lock, but leave 2H-4H-N-4L on an honest to god manually actuated lever where you feel the gears mesh and everything.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Of course, Jeep already offers a variety of systems on the Grand Cherokee. No reason they couldn’t on the Wrangler as the lineup expands.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I think most of the complaints stem from simple ignorance. I’d say as long as it’s a mechanically locking system (not viscous coupling), and has a low range, it’s “true” 4wd.

            My biggest pet peeve is “auto 4wd” on a lot of domestic pickups and SUVs, which uses a plain jane part time system actuated very rapidly to emulate a true ‘unlocked’ 4wd system. It’s a shoddy way to try and offer pseudo-AWD for on road driving, and IMO leads to both premature drivetrain wear and potentially squirrely and unpredictable road holding in mixed traction situations.

        • 0 avatar
          EMedPA

          My old WJ-series Grand Cherokee had one of those NP 242’s. It was one of the vehicle’s best features.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m the source of many of those complaints. Most of the current Jeep models feature some sort of car like AWD system. Adding a modified Wrangler which features this, when several other models already do, seems foolish. I have read one of the most traded cars in the first year is the Wrangler because those who trade did not realize what they were getting into at purchase (road noise, mileage etc). Why spend the money and time to develop a variant when such products already exist in the same showroom?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          28 cars, I think you’re misunderstanding the technical workings of a transfer case. Jeep already has these transfer cases in the parts bin so to speak, they’d be more or less plug and play. There isn’t anything inherently “weak” or “crossoverish” about them. And the dividend they’d pay in terms of people who think “I have a Wrangler, it’s unstoppable in the winter” and then fly off the highway might very well be worth it. Of course, the Wrangler’s poor winter highway performance has a lot to do with its center of gravity, bouncy suspension, steering response, and tires as much as it does with the slip induced by having a hard 50/50 power split by a primitive transfer case.

          Even with snow tires, my 4Runner with its part time system in 4H cannot match the stability and surefootedness of my old Mazda MPV (likewise on snow tires) in its fulltime 4wd mode with the center diff unlocked. Here as with the Wrangler, similar forces are at play in terms of the 4Runner having a stiffer, bouncier suspension that unsettles going over expansion joints and such.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            ” The dividend they’d pay in terms of people who think “I have a Wrangler, it’s unstoppable in the winter” and then fly off the highway might very well be worth it”

            They’re not doing that because tehy don’t understand the transfer case/4WD system.

            They’re doing that because (things you said and) they don’t realize that 4WD doesn’t let their off-road tires work like magic on ice.

            (I mean, the slip from the transfer case setup?

            Isn’t that handled by the traction control system?

            It’s 2015, FFS. The computer should be tackling wheel slip about as fast as you notice it.)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think you’re right, if I could see it I would probably have a better understanding.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Sigivald, again, you have to understand the innards of these mechanical systems and just how they work. You’ve probably heard how a 4wd truck will ‘crabwalk’ or “bind up” if you try to do a tight turn on pavement when in 4wd. That’s because the front axle is cutting a larger radius (ie traveling farther) than the rear axle. Same situation as what you see the right and left wheels doing when looking at an individual axle, and this is the reason we have differentials in the first place. If we didn’t, we’d have this awkward jerkiness as the two wheels try to spin in unison while traveling two different distances. Same applies when looking at two separate axles at the front and rear of a vehicle. In a tight turn, there is a noticeable delta in distance traveled by the two front wheels vs the rear. A free spinning central differential accounts for this. A basic part time system does not, it has a hard split, leading to the aforementioned crab walking. Electronic stability/traction control doesn’t prevent this, although it could kick in to catch a slide once it is induced by this phenomenon.

          • 0 avatar
            Feds

            2 kinds of people in the world: Those who have tried SelecTrac/Multimode/Super Select/4-mode 4wd, and those who have not.

            As I understand it, the 2-door wrangler is too short to accommodate a SelecTrac transfer case, but I can’t see the wheelbase on an Unlimited being shorter than an XJ Cherokee. There should be plenty of room under there, and the transaction prices (and anecdotal usage cases) are already justifying it. AND, they already offer 2 transfer cases (Rubicon and not rubicon), so it’s not tonnes more confusing on the production line.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            gtemnykh – Yes, I’ve heard of it. (Heck, I have a 4wd F250. I’ve heard the wheels chirp when I turn if I forget 4WD is on when I get on pavement.)

            Mea culpa – I was thinking the Wrangler had the “full time 4WD” system Every Other Damn Jeep has, with a center diff.

            (I still think the *problem* for Wrangler people flying off the road in winter is not that, so much as “4wd means I can handle anything” and the wrong tires.

            After all, if the road’s actually slippery, the wheel slip takes care of your binding issues… which is exactly why it’s fine offroad on dirt or mud.

            I expect my XC70 to not fly off the road in the winter not because it has AWD, but because I *know AWD doesn’t make me stop faster or not spin out on ice*.)

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Sigivald,

            I’d agree that the biggest factor will always be the “nut behind the wheel” but the other factors (suspension compliance, weight distribution, center of gravity, tires) make the difference between white knuckle driving and confidence on slick roads. This is where Subarus and your XC70 really come into their element, or even a fwd sedan with snow tires (and especially a Subaru on snow tires).

            I do still contend that having that smoother power transfer that comes with a center differential is beneficial under those sorts of conditions.

            “After all, if the road’s actually slippery, the wheel slip takes care of your binding issues… which is exactly why it’s fine offroad on dirt or mud.”

            We’ve agreed that the solid 50/50 split basically FORCES loss of traction at individual wheels in a turn on slippery surfaces, which is quite counter productive in a delicate situation like higher speeds on paved roads. With a full time system, all wheels turn at whatever speed pleases them, maintaining even grip. At lower speeds off-road, sure you’re going to be slipping and spinning anyways, it’s a non-issue. Believe me, I’m very much a fan of sturdy and simple, locked up 4wd systems, my 4Runner has an excellent electronic locking rear differential for when things get really hairy. Between that, the snow tires, the tire chains, and the recovery gear, I’m ready to take on all comers in deep snow and vehicle recovery. But for the 10 hour drive for Christmas through Northern Ohio and Western NY past Erie PA, I’d kill for a new Outback!

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Kinda comes with the territory, it’s a light truck with small overhangs and a relatively short wheelbase.
      My H2s are the same exact length of a new Grand Cherokee, have the same 8-lug axles as a 3/4 ton truck front and rear, 3/4 ton frame, LQ4 work engine, and despite a 2,200lb payload, the early trucks only have a tow rating of 7,000 lbs. Granted I’ve seen people push that to almost double the limit, so what do I know.

  • avatar
    bills79jeep

    As much as I’d love to see a Jeep truck, I think an HD Wrangler is a sales no brainer. Jeep already pads their margins with the Rubicon HD stuff. They could add $10-15k to the sticker for full floaters, “HD Suspension” that adds ~1″ of lift, model exclusive wheels, and some stickers. Throw in another couple grand for a diesel option. Like the author says, the model works, just look at truck sales. To anyone that says no one will buy a $60k Wrangler, you’re dead wrong. As much as I despise them, bro truck Rubicons with extensive (and expensive) mods are everywhere.

    He’s also right that Jeep should strike while the iron is hot. When I was younger, the Jeep aftermarket catalogs were pretty thin, maybe 50 pages. Today, they are like paperback novels, easily over 100 pages with dozens of new aftermarket players. Jeep should cut these guys off

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    How come FCA gets to sell all these clunky, thirsty Tonka Toys *and* V-8 cars/trucks? What happened to CAFE?

    This when Honda… Honda!… is having to lower rooflines on everything I like along with every other CUV manufacturer in order to eke a few more mpgs from the aero?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      High margins pay the fines. Just like the German manufacturers have done for years. Give the people what they want.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “Give the people what they want.”

        According to ajla, who’s pretty unimpeachable, it doesn’t always work out that way.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Lol. My Charger was technically close to what I wanted. It is a fullsize naturally-aspirated, pushrod-powered sedan that rides great and didn’t cost $40k+. (I would have rather bought a Caprice 6.0, but GM won’t sell me one unless I become a cop or move to another country.)

          What I was hoping to avoid on the Dodge are the numerous electrical gremlins I’ve suffered and the K-car era build quality.

          That said, most everyone else on here seems happy with their LX/LY cars, so maybe I just got the worst apple in the bunch. Statistics don’t really help my individual situation though.

          Oh well, 25 more months and it gets dumped for something not built by FCA.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            FCA “quality” is precisely why they won’t see any of my $ – the risk of getting an unacceptable vehicle is too high.

          • 0 avatar
            Andrew717

            Yeah, my wife really likes the Charger, and we both like Wranglers. Then we remember our separate experience with Chrysler products. MAYBE as a dirt cheap third car. Maybe.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        People are seldom given what they want in this industry.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    I, however, am encouraging Chrysler to build a Hellcat Wrangler, or at least a 5.7 HEMI one.

  • avatar
    Kato

    Great article. More well-reasoned analysis like this please TTAC.

    +1 on a hard-top Unlimited (don’t lengthen it) with a full-time AWD-capable transfer case (because black ice) and a manual transmission. I skipped buying a Liberty a few years back because full-time AWD was only available with an auto.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I can only imagine the leap in cargo space and interior room that would be realized when those roll bars would no longer be intruding on the inside. Additional benefit to someone like me that hauls a canoe on the roof of my SUV: you can now easily do that with a basic roof rack. No need for some incredibly bulky and stupid looking external cage to work around a weak roof structure. Frankly, I’d be willing to sacrifice a bit of departure angle for a bit more rear “seats-up’ cargo room. Maybe lengthening the rear overhang something like 3 inches would be a reasonable compromise.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Seth,
    Interesting article. Thanks for your effort.

    But, I do think Jeep has some hurdles to overcome with it’s FE and meeting CAFE.

    This comment you made is quite wishful;

    “Could Jeep convince three-percent of full-size truck shoppers to switch to Wrangler? How about two-percent? Let’s assume Jeep converted just 1.5-percent of North American full size truck buyers to Wrangler. That would equate to 37,000 new customers, driving up average transaction prices along the way.”

    I would assume offering a new generation midsizer with most of the same attributes as a full size, comfort, utility, etc would be a better gamble than attempting to convert a pickup driver into a poor handling, rough and poorly put together vehicle like the Wrangler.

    The Wrnagler’s best bet is to expand it’s global market, not the US market.

    • 0 avatar
      Seth Parks

      Big Al
      Thanks for reading the article. I enjoyed pulling it together.

      If Jeep/FCA could afford a do-over then yes I would agree that a clean sheet compact/mid-size pickup would be a better bet, but the expense is prohibitive which is why they are not doing that. At least not that we are aware of.

      I further agree that international markets provide a significant growth opportunity for Wrangler, perhaps more so than the domestic market. However, in order to put forth a compelling product for international buyers Wrangler needs to go beyond being a toy – it needs greater payload. And thus my contention is that bifurcating the Wrangler lineup into Standard and HD is the way to go.

  • avatar
    George B

    One of the problems with the Jeep Wrangler is that its short wheelbase hurts it in footprint-based CAFE requirements. Longer wheelbase variants like the 4 door Unlimited and Wrangler pickups would have easier fuel economy targets to meet.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Targets shmargets. Even the extendo Wrangler Unlimited can never meet tightening CAFE standards. Not if it remains a “Wrangler” as we know it. It’s like the case for rock cocaine; As long as there’s buyers, there’s sellers. CAFE fines seem huge, but it comes down to $125 or something, per bad actor.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      George B,
      I agree with your comment.

      I do believe the best way to manage fuel consumption is to have an emission standard based on the volume of fuel, ie, X emissions per litre/gallon.

      Then I do believe tax fuel to manage usage. This will allow for those who want and need performance and power to buy and it gives the government more money to plough into transport infrastructure. If the government doesn’t waste the revenue on some other useless project.

      CAFE fines can be substantial, just look at he Chev SS. I think it is attracting a large CAFE fine of well over $1 500 per vehicle, not a piddly $125.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Very, very informative. You just don’t see many articles like this anymore. Great commentary on the various 4wd and awd systems too. I just bought a new Wrangler in Sept, and while I’m under no illusions about winter driving, I do need to subtly remind my wife about some of these things.

    After 3 weeks with a Wrangler all I can say is “I’m gonna need another one!”

  • avatar
    Seth Parks

    Glad you enjoyed the article, thank you for posting a comment.

    Hope you have a hard-top for more winter Wrangler enjoyment!


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