By on March 26, 2019

Image: FCA

As Fiat Chrysler prepares the Jeep Gladiator for its highly anticipated dealer debut, consumers are gearing up for the first midsize pickup conceived of outside the boundaries of established industry norms in quite some time. The Gladiator is very different from the competition. It looks like a modified Wrangler, has a removable windshield, soft or hardtop roof, and doors, and even comes with a manual transmission option. It’s also new, which is noteworthy in itself.

Midsize pickups have a tenancy to linger. The second-generation Chevrolet Colorado first appeared in 2012 and Toyota’s Tacoma typically enjoys a ten-year lifespan before the manufacturer feels the itch for a full redesign. Even Ford’s Ranger is a reheated leftover sourced from the global market. While not necessarily a shortcoming in itself, the segment suffers from a distinct lack of innovation — and that’s exactly where the Gladiator could find its place in the sun

Image: FCA

Bloomberg recently attempted to size up the Jeep’s odds. While no decision could be reached, it did show that the pickup has a few factors working in its favor. The biggest boon involves how much attention the midsize truck segment now enjoys. While crossovers remain king, middleweight pickups have gained substantial ground in America. Between 2015 and 2018, Bloomberg claims premium SUV sales improved by nearly 90 percent while their smaller counterparts gained about 50 percent. Midsize pickups ranked third, growing by 46.7 percent within the same timespan.

While overall volumes aren’t really comparable, midsize pickups show a marked improvement over full-sized trucks (which only grew by 8.8 percent) and all mainstream SUV/crossover segments. Everything else lost ground — bad news for cars, but good news for Jeep.

Image: FCA

Of course, Jeep doesn’t want to just enter the segment. It wants to carve out a niche for itself to help syphon sales away from its rivals while keeping its own customers from straying when they decide it’s time to get a pickup.

“A lot of these trucks are interchangeable — not necessarily different other than the sheet metal,” Jeep marketing head Scott Tallon told Bloomberg. “We sweat the details on how to package and deliver something that’s different and unique. Those little nuances I think are really what’s going to set it apart.”

The Gladiator’s maximum towing capacity of 7,650 pounds (1,600 pounds for payload) is more than competitive for the segment, but Tallon knows that isn’t the be-all and end-all for customers. In addition to its very distinctive styling and legitimate off-road capability, the Gladiator offers standard all-wheel drive, a multi-function tailgate, integrated tie-down points, bed lighting, and some unique storage solutions. It’s also upping the tech game by providing optional extras like a 115-volt outlet, advanced driving aids, and a surprising amount of luxury features.

Image: FCA

Throw in all of those removable (and customizable) body panels and you start to see a pickup that really wants to outclass the competition.

Toyota claims not to be worried.

“To be honest, we’ve never been able to meet demand,” said Tacoma marketing head Don Johnson. “We have a lot of faith in our product, our consumers and our heritage.”

With 245,659 deliveries in the U.S. last year, the Tacoma has a long way to fall — and hasn’t provided any indication it’s about to. But we’re less inclined to agree with Mr. Johnson’s assertion that the Gladiator will garner fewer than 50,000 buyers a year and end up cannibalizing existing Jeep sales. The only model with any severe overlap is the Wrangler itself, and Strategic Vision, an auto market research firm, already estimated that around 10 percent of Jeep owners trade in their utility for a pickup truck every year. The Gladiator might be the perfect remedy for that.

Image: FCA

Still, even FCA is willing to admit that the pickup could steal some volume from the Wrangler. It forecasts a worst-case scenario of 15 percent of prospective Wrangler sales going to the Gladiator. But if that results in a net increase in brand sales, we doubt Jeep will mind in the slightest. The two vehicles are already manufactured size-by-side and share a bevy of parts, making any volume discrepancies much easier to manage.

So… will the Gladiator redefine the segment or end up as a flash in the pan, catering to buyers too far beyond the confines of mainstream taste? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

Jeep’s Gladiator launches this spring with a standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6; a torquey 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 appears next year. If you’re wondering about trims, Sport, Sport S, Overland (basically the Sahara), and Rubicon will be the first available.

Image: FCA

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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61 Comments on “How Much Success Can Jeep Expect from the Gladiator?...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Are you not entertained?

  • avatar
    Robbie

    it is a clever sales model. You call the thing “Jeep Gladiator”, make it look rugged, and then having ancient technology and poor engineering does not matter anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      What makes their technology ancient and their engineering poor?
      Jeeps seem to do quite well from my perspective – sales, performance, resale value.

    • 0 avatar
      multicam

      One man’s “ancient technology” is another man’s “proven and trusty off-road tech.”

      One man’s “poor engineering” is another man’s “Jeep Thing.”

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      It’s all about sheet metal fashion for lots of buyers, they could care less or know less about mechanicals. I expect this to be a hit.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I’d like to hear what parts of this are poorly engineered?

      There hasn’t been a lot of specifics, but the TFL vids looked like it was engineered appropriately for the purpose. Also had some clever tech.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The introduction of the 4 door Wrangler catapulted Jeep sales, I struggle to see how the Gladiator does not follow suit. For the first several years it is hard for me to imagine many sitting on the lot for more than a week or two.

    I also believe the Gladiator will take Tacoma sales as well.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    It will be frightfully expensive, that alone will make it a winner – exclusivity.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Am I the only person who sees this as not much more than a rehash of the H3T?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Yes.

      The main reason is that “up yours, hippy” was a key part of Hummer’s brand DNA.

      But everyone loves Jeeps, hippies included.

      No, this does not make any sense. But Jeeps and Hummers are emotional purchases, especially when new.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      H3T is a good comparison, I think there are a lot of people who would like a H3T, enter Gladiator

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        It’s unfortunate the gladiator does not have the V8 option the H3T had. And as long as we’re comparing the two, the H3T started at a lower price than the SUV.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I don’t think we really know what the Gladiator is going to cost

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Everyone seems to assume it’s going to be sky high. I don’t understand the reasoning, Jeep can make a handy profit and tear away market share the rest of the market if they price it in line with the SUV.
            I’m very interested on seeing pricing. I mention the H3T because it really sets a standard for the gladiator. I don’t expect the gladiator to start below $30k like the H3T did 10 years ago but I’m interested to see how it matches the price of the JLU.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    “The only model with any severe overlap is the Wrangler itself, and Strategic Vision, an auto market research firm, already estimated that around 10 percent of Jeep owners trade in their utility for a pickup truck every year. The Gladiator might be the perfect remedy for that.”

    Pickup trucks have gotten remarkably civilized and polished in their NVH attributes. Wranglers are less horrible than they were in decades past. These are not the same things. What percentage of Wrangler drivers buy them because they’re cute only to figure out that they have to yell to be heard over Bluetooth when they’re trying to have an important conversation with their BFF about what to wear tomorrow? The Gladiator is going to sell in big numbers for a while. It’s going to sell to people who don’t know who they are without a Wrangler in the driveway.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    I was in Moab this past weekend. They will sell all that Toledo can crank out! Soon to be spotted with lift kits, insane amount of stickers that announce the lift kit components being driven by 30 somethings with an I’m going to kill a zombie attitude and not an inkling of skill necessary to negotiate anything above a snowy parking lot.

  • avatar
    NiceCar

    I’d never by one, but I love it. I’ve always been a Wrangler admirer from afar as well.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    From where I sit, this looks like the right product at the right time for FCA. I wish them all success!

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I think it’s cool, unique, and will definitely steal Tacoma sales.

    Toyota on the Tacoma:

    “To be honest, we’ve never been able to meet demand”.

    Toyota should welcome this new Jeep because they’re gonna help out with Toyota’s “problem”.

  • avatar
    Loser

    “Do you like movies about Gladiators?”

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Gut reaction: It will do very well.

    It will be interesting to see ‘second choice’ data (where the buyers came from) down the road.

    If I worked for Toyota, I’m not sure I would make public proclamations regarding Jeep volume – high risk/low reward…

    Naive question: Where was this two (or more) years ago?

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      I assume the answer to your last question is that it didn’t make sense to tool up for a Gladiator on the JK platform 2 years ago when the JL was coming out so soon.

      As for where this was 5 years ago, that’s tougher to answer. It seems like people have been asking for this for years. Maybe FCA was overly cautious until they saw that Ford and GM were jumping back into mid size trucks.

  • avatar
    Acd

    After seeing one at an auto show recently I’m not sure how many FCA is planning on making but whatever that number is its not enough.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Lacks everything I’m looking for in my next 4dr PU. You couldn’t give one to me if I wasn’t allowed to immediately sell and buy something worth owning. But………..I’m sure they will sell very, very well!

  • avatar
    Dan

    All demographics are regional but at least around here – mid Atlantic suburbs, scads of toy money but no trails in sight – Wranglers are A) absolutely everywhere, and B) total chick cars just like every other Jeep, $70,000 SRTs excepted. Add to that, you don’t see a woman driving a pickup truck of any size once a week and it’s a safe bet that that one’s her husband’s.

    Combine those observations and I think that the crossover of existing Jeep buyers here will be pretty much zero. Women don’t want trucks. And that’s before you even get to the 6 point turns to park.

    But that’s OK because the short men are already lining up.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I live out west, and it seems that women out here really really like their trucks. I see women every day driving everything from 1500 to 3500s. It’s not a safe bet at all that the truck belongs to the husband. I see bumper stickers like “silly boys, trucks are for girls” and such pretty much daily. That’s before you even get to the horse people where you’ll often see 3500’s driven by women with a cab full of women and a giant trailer that costs small house money filled with a herd.

      • 0 avatar
        Bill Wade

        “That’s before you even get to the horse people where you’ll often see 3500’s driven by women with a cab full of women and a giant trailer that costs small house money filled with a herd.”

        Yep, I live in southern Arizona and that’s the norm.

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    That thing is fugly , like some custom chassis stretching backyard mechanic limo project . Don’t see why anyone would want something like this over a Raptor or any other pickup , but to each their own .

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      1) It is smaller and fits in a garage, parking space much better.

      2) Not everyone wants a desert runner for a truck and the Raptor isn’t really a crawler though the Power Wagon is.

      3) It has a removable top and doors. There aren’t a lot of topless vehicles any longer.

      I would get one because I don’t need a full sized truck and I always liked the Dakota convertible. It is differen’t than the other mid sizers on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        The Raptor can rock crawl as well as a Power Wagon can, but both are hampered by their size/long wheelbase to be really effective rock crawlers.

        I agree with Richard that it’s really not great looking, proportions are out of whack….but as stated above, I’m sure it will sell well…..for a while.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    love it

    this I believe will be priced much higher than the Tacoma – I remember being somewhat shocked at the high price – meaning Jeep will make huge $$$ on this

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Expect Gladiator to succeed as the Wrangler has.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    The length of it will cripple its off roadability by increasing the turning radius. The multiple hairpin turns on the road down the face of the box canyon into Telluride come to mind.
    Then again, how many of these will never see much more than a graded dirt road?

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Telluride has 3 passes. People drive Imogene pass win RAMs and F-150s, in either direction. It’s not a problem. Maybe some issue on the Bear pass. And Ophir… I can take it in a BMW X3.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Judging by the commentary thread here, the Taco is the only midsize pickup on the market.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Gonna be one clunky & crude daily driver but how else can you show it off?

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I don’t think they’re THAT bad anymore. I test drove a softop JKU a few years back and for the most part, it handled and drove at least as well as my ’96 4Runner, and was no louder in terms of NVH as I recall. Now, that mighy imply to you just what sort of ox-cart my old 4Runner is I suppose. The new JL is even MORE refined.

      An aside: I saw a disabled brand new JL Unlimited during out last decent snow storm, engine on, sitting immobilized in the rightmost lane. I suspect either the owner couldn’t figure out how to work the transfer case, or there was a mechanical issue with that component. Either way I found it hilarious and pathetic.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’d be really surprised if it was anything less then a huge success, I just think the name is kind of dumb, sounds a bit porn-ish

  • avatar
    James Charles

    The Gladiator has much potential. This fancy version with all the removable doors, fold down wind screen, etc is good for the posers and can be a good money spinner for FCA in the recreational mall crawler market.

    Jeep need to produce a simple and cheaper variant. The interior can still come dolled up a little for comfort. You don’t need all the fluff and crap for a 4×4. Why not build a Gladiator with the 2.8 diesel, vinyl floor, fixed doors, fixed roof, fixed wind screen and a single cab.

    This would sell in overseas market well. If Jeep can work it out and Jeep can improve reliability it could be a great truck in agricultue, mining, forestry, government emergency services, etc.

    This Gladiator can so much more than someones wet dream and be a useful tool.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      a 2.8 diesel would be more expensive. re-engineering to have fixed doors and windshields would be more expensive then leaving them alone. I believe the sport is the model you’re looking for- with the max tow package for the added durability features.

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      In theory, wouldn’t FCA want to brand a simpler, cheaper variant of this as a Dakota?

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Jeep will have so much success with this vehicle.

    And they’ll have a lot of success with the tiny FIAT 500-sized ‘urban activity’ market as soon as they get that car ready.

    And they’re going to try an Escalade/Rover type luxury vehicle– which will be also be a success.

    Jeep are on fire. The company seems better positioned than it has in the past. I, personally, wish for some foppish little Chrysler thing– a sporty FIAT 500x/Compass 4X4 type vehicle with 4-person luxe seating, lots of modernity– lights and comfortable tuning for sensory overloaded modern folk. Chrysler should be soothing in the same way Jeep’s outdoorsyness promises, but for the urbane and suburban audiences.

    Jeep will make it, tho– and it’ll sell.. until the brand turns into Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, or Oldsmobile. Halston– which is an immaculate look, we’re just not buying it anymore. Suppose Alexis Rose is.

    Are we still on that journey with her?

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Could not agree more, ineon. I give Mike Manley a whole lot of credit, and Sergio did an outstanding job with the Ram pickup business. People can nitpick, but FCA trucks are a success story and more is better. A little bitty Suzuki Samurai sized Fiat and a big, expensive Land Rover like truck would be money. Melt down everything that is not a truck or truck-looking and get to making more trucks.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    I want one…….based on a TJ with the Cummins R2.8.

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    I sat in a couple of these at the Toronto auto show last month.

    My first impression was that the wheelbase is really long. (Turns out it’s 10″ longer than most of the competition). This, combined with the rear overhang has to affect its off road abilities somewhat.

    Getting in and out of the thing was a bit of a chore too, as the rear doors are incredibly small.

    I guess if you are a Jeep guy and want a truck, this will fit the bill. I’ll just stick to my F-150.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    I imagine if Mopar hasn’t designed caps and camper shells for the bed, Leer and the like certainly will.

    A Gladiator with a galley and sleeping quarters would make a pretty capable post-apocalypse vehicle…

  • avatar
    NN

    This–and the Tesla Model 3 of course–will be the hottest new cars on the market in 2019. Good to see two American manufacturers providing unique and successful vehicles. Everyone else is doing the same thing–and shrinking because of it. Interesting that FCA, and Jeep of all companies becomes one of the last bastions of automotive enthusiasm. Look at this thing–removeable roof and panels, off road capability, and a stick shift. This thing looks like pure FUN. Is there anything on the market that is remotely close? No. Ford, Toyota, GM, Nissan, they’re all abandoning fun in one way or another, and the real enthusiasts will continue to flock to Jeep.

  • avatar
    RIVER STREETmaserati123

    Toyota,Ford,Nissan,Chevy and any manufacturer who sells a pickup truck this size are all worried. I want a Gladiator just for the fun of it,I won’t buy any other brand for the fun factor only.Plus I am not even a truck guy,but the Gladiator had a place in my collection very soon.

  • avatar
    NECarGuy

    I want one and am waiting to see this versus the new Bronco. I’d like a truck, but can’t justify a full size and the current midsize aren’t great.

    My fear is that it will be severely overpriced and I’ll end up buying a loaded F-150 King Ranch for the same money…..

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Look up Wrangler prices and don’t kid yourself that either this or the Ford is going to run one penny less. That isn’t King Ranch money, quite, but it’s every bit of a Lariat.

      If you need to justify it from a value standpoint then just buy the half ton and get it over with.

  • avatar
    maui_zaui

    Love these things and they will sell like hotcakes. I view the Gladiator as a Wrangler with more storage. The length will impact the off road capability, but like most Jeeps 95% of them will stay on the pavement or at best go on a dirt road. My only contention with the Gladiator is the price. I’ll venture to guess these things will be expensive.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Just based on the polarization of the comments here, it seems to me that Jeep has this thing laser-focused on its target niche and is going to land a bulls-eye.


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