The flat-bed Jeep pick-up will almost certainly go on sale in New Zealand in the first half of 2019, says company chief Mike Manley.
“There is no question on the pick-up for right-hand drive at all,” Manley told reporters at the Los Angeles motor show. “The first production will be August or September 2018, so by the time that gets into our international markets, we’re probably looking at very early 2019.”
Englishman Manley is the global head of Jeep for parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the chief operating officer (COO) for Asia-Pacific. He said he has always pushed for a Wrangler-based ute since he joined Jeep in 2009-10.
“The Jeep pick-up was something that I felt we should have, and now we’re getting it,” he said. “It’s going to be derived from the next-generation JL Wrangler, which goes into production at the end of 2017. The first pick-up will be six months later into 2018.”
The new JL Wrangler is expected to be unveiled at the Detroit motor show in January in both short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase – Unlimited – form.
Reports out of the US indicate that it will retain the current model’s ladder-frame construction and solid front and rear axles, but use aluminium doors, body panels and mudguards to help cut weight.
The pick-up will be based on the Wrangler Unlimited, but whether it receives the same lightweight components as the donor vehicle remains to be seen. Changes to the interior of the 2018 Wrangler include more space, a dashboard with the Uconnect central touchscreen multimedia system, and higher-grade trim.
On the outside it will pick up LEDs within the headlights, a longer bonnet and more angled seven-slot grille, daytime driving lights, more angled A-pillars to help with aerodynamics, and a redesign of the rear swing-door/tailgate operation.
The current 212kW/348Nm 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine will be reworked to mate better with new gearboxes, an eight-speed auto’ and six-speed manual. A 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel will likely replace the dated 147kW/460Nm 2.8-litre VM Motori unit, and a four-cylinder petrol turbo may be available later in the production cycle.
Jeep first hinted at a Wrangler pick-up when it revealed the Gladiator concept at the 2005 Detroit show. The same name was used on the ute version of the SJ Wagoneer in the US from 1962 to 1971.