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New head of Jeep North America faces crucial Toledo launch

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Jeep has a new leader in North America.

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In this file photo, Tim Kuniskis shows off the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan at the North American International Auto Show, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Detroit, Mich.

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Tim Kuniskis, who as the previous head of Dodge oversaw bringing the super-powered Hellcat Challenger and Charger to market, was named Monday as the new head of Jeep North America, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Michael Manley said in a letter to employees.

The 51-year-old Kuniskis takes the wheel at Jeep with the brand hitting sales records. The Toledo-built Wrangler is searching for a sixth consecutive month of U.S. sales of at least 20,000 units. Fiat Chrysler will announce its September sales Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Jeep is hoping to top sales of 80,000 units in September, which would be the sixth time this year that the iconic brand has reached the mark.

Mr. Kuniskis was most recently the global head of Fiat Chrysler’s Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands. He will keep his role at Alfa Romeo, while assuming the Jeep responsibilities in North America.

Bob Hegbloom remains the global head of the Jeep brand.

In his new role, Mr. Kuniskis will supervise the launch early next year of a new Jeep midsized pickup truck that will be built at a separate assembly plant from the Wrangler at the Toledo Assembly Complex. The anxiously awaited pickup will compete against the Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma and new Ford Ranger.

In other executive moves outlined Monday by Mr. Manley, Reid Bigland, 51, returns to head the Ram truck brand, while maintaining his duties as chief of Canadian operations and U.S. sales.

Ram has a crucial launch of the Ram 1500 full-sized pickup under way at Fiat Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan. That launch has been much choppier than Wrangler’s rollout in Toledo.

Also, Scott Garberding, 54, has been promoted to Global Chief Manufacturing Officer from his most-immediate role as quality chief.

Contact David Barkholz at dbarkholz@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @barkholzatAN.

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