A Jeep ute based on the next-generation Wrangler Unlimited platform will almost certainly go on sale in New Zealand from 2018, powered by an updated version of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine used in the Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 pick-up.
It will be a four-door, not as big but similar in concept to the oversized Brute ute (above) built on a stretched Unlimited chassis by American Expeditionary Vehicles. The Brute ute is available in New Zealand for around $120,000.
Picture the new Jeep ute as a four-door version of the crew-cab concept (at right) unveiled at the Detroit show a few years ago.
Jeep knows it can’t enter the competitive light commercial market in New Zealand and elsewhere with the current Wrangler engine line-up: the 3.6-litre V6 petrol Pentastar unit and ageing, Italian-built 2.8-litre VM Mortori diesel.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) chief executive Sergio Marchionne and Jeep chief Mike Manley said as much at the Detroit motor show early in January, when they pretty much confirmed that the ute would go into production later in 2017.
Later the same month FCA revealed that the new two-door and four-door Wrangler SUVs would also get a new diesel engine to replace the VM Motori unit. Sure as eggs, that will be the 3.0-litre V6.
It’s also likely that Jeep will for the first time offer the 180kW/560Nm diesel in the trail-tough Rubicon range alongside the 209kW/347Nm Pentastar petrol V6. Off-road enthusiasts worldwide have been clamouring for a Rubicon diesel.
The Fiat Chrysler NZ office was unavailable for comment, but FCA Australia marketing director, Zac Loo, told reporters across the ditch that a Jeep ute would stand out in a segment that has similar offerings.
“Obviously the Wrangler is unrivalled for off-road ability and is a unique car in the market,” he was reported as saying.
“Combining that with the versatility of a ute tray is another dimension to a product that is already special, so it just gives another broader use for the platform moving forward. We definitely see an opportunity in the market.
“We are not going to go into the realm of cab-chassis or anything like that. It is a Wrangler – off-road capability is its number-one priority and it’s just how can you extend that and make it easier to use.”
The ute is part of Jeep’s plan to boost overall global sales going into the next decade. It built more than 255,000 Wrangler SUVs alone last year, a production record.