Saturday, Jul 21, 2018
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Automotive

More than new Wrangler coming from Jeep

LOS ANGELES — While the focus at the Los Angeles Auto Show has rightly been on the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler, that vehicle is only part of the company’s larger strategy for growing the brand in North America and around the world.

Early next year, a refreshed version of the Jeep Cherokee is scheduled to debut, followed in 2019 by a Wrangler-based pickup truck.

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The 2019 Jeep Wrangler is introduced during the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday.

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That pickup, which has not yet publicly been given a name, will be built in Toledo in the same part of the Toledo Assembly Complex that’s building the current version of the Wrangler.

Once the current Wrangler is phased out — it’s unclear when that will happen, though Fiat Chrysler has said it will be in the first half of next year — the company will get to work revamping the assembly line for the first Jeep truck in a quarter-century.

“Already the anticipation for that pickup truck is building and building,” Jeep CEO Mike Manley told The Blade at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. “Now for the first time we’re able to return Jeep to a portfolio it had with a pickup truck and I’m incredibly pleased the way the design’s come together and where it’s going to be manufactured.”

Though the Jeep faithful have been clamoring for a Wrangler-based pickup for years, analysts have questioned how large the market really will be for a rugged, off-road capable pickup.

Various automotive forecasters have told The Blade they can’t see the truck selling more than 30,000 to 45,000 units a year.

Jeep officials won’t put a number to their expectations, but they are much more bullish than that on their upcoming truck.

“Now, I have a degree of insider knowledge they don't,” Mr. Manley said, “but from my perspective the opportunity for that vehicle in our portfolio is really quite significant.”

Jeep’s global sales have risen every year since 2009, going from fewer than 400,000 units to more than 1.4 million in 2016. Executives with Jeep parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said this summer they believe they can hit their goal of selling 2 million Jeeps globally next year.

The Wrangler is an important part of that, no doubt, but it still only represented about 17 percent of the brand’s total shipments last year, based on an analysis from IHS Markit. And while IHS does believe Wrangler sales will increase with the new model, the company still expects 85 percent of total Wrangler sales will be the North American market come 2020.

Jeep also has committed to launching a pair of full-size sport utility vehicles, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, by the end of 2020.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com419-724-6134, or on Twitter @TyrelLinkhorn.

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