Jeep plans to broaden its model range and global appeal to double annual sales to 1.9 million vehicles over the next five years.
It laid out the ambitious business plan at a Chrysler Group conference in Detroit, where it said it would add to its line-up a bigger, three-row SUV called the Grand Wagoneer and smaller SUVs and crossovers, including the just-released smaller Renegade.
Production in North America would increase from around 800,000 units today to more than one million by the end of 2018. Likewise, it aims to build about 500,000 Jeeps in Asia, 200,000 in Europe and 200,000 in Latin America.
Jeep brand head Mike Manley said the company would localise production to “unlock the potential of some of the world’s largest markets.” He added: “Jeep spirit is something that we believe lives inside everybody – our job is to reach inside and pull that spirit to the surface.”
But there was no mention in the new range of a pick-up truck that commentators worldwide say it is the most exciting concept from Chrysler in 20 years: the Gladiator.
The Gladiator first appeared at the 2005 Detroit motor show. It was a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited body sitting on a Ram 1500 pick-up truck frame. Jeep fans have never stopped talking about it. Indeed Manley says nine years on he still gets asked about the potential of such a Jeep-branded pick-up.
The Gladiator was big – 5.2m long and 1.95m wide – but smaller than the regular Ram 1500, which is 5.9m long and 2.0m wide. The Wrangler Unlimited is 4.6m long and 1.8m wide and enthusiasts argue that its dimensions are ideal for a global workhorse to rival utes from Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mazda and Volkswagen.
A Jeep pick-up similar to the design of the Gladiator is available from after-market specialists for the US only, but Jeep itself is staying away from building such a model, believing that in the real world it would have limited appeal.
It is looking for global growth via SUVs and turning to markets outside North America, specifically China and Brazil, both forecasted to represent 32 per cent of the global SUV market.
Jeep will collaborate with China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group to build Cherokee and Renegade SUVs and, later, replacements for the Compass and Patriot, both of which will ride on a stretched version of the Renegade platform. It will also expand in South America, where it is building a new plant in Brazil to produce the Renegade and Compass replacement.
Two core Jeep models – the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee – will be re-engineered going into 2018. The flagship Cherokee will receive a freshening, but the Wrangler SUV will be overhauled, to lose weight and improve powertrain efficiency. Jeep promises that the changes on’t compromise its off-road ability.