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Jeep Wrangler pick-up headed Down Under

Coming soon: Jeep will introduce a pick-up version of its Wrangler SUV, with four doors and true off-road capability. (Jeep Gladiator concept shown)

Fiat Chrysler to finally have pick-up offering in Aus with Jeep Wrangler ute


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7 Apr 2016

THE long-mooted Jeep Wrangler pick-up is a reality and set to bolster Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) Australian line-up when it hits these shores in the next few years.

Despite having some success with its Fiat Professional van range, FCA has made do without an entry in Australia’s booming light-commercial pick-up segment, but the Wrangler ute will give the car-making giant a unique offering in this super-competitive market.

The Mitsubishi Triton-based Fiat Fullback pick-up was recently ruled out for the Australian market.

The pick-up will be based on the next-generation Wrangler that is likely to make its debut next year, based on a new platform while retaining its body-on-frame construction and serious off-road capability.

Little else is known about the pick-up at this stage, but FCA Australia executives revealed some details at a recent media event in Melbourne.

It will be offered in a four-door body style and is unlikely to get a two-door option, with seating for at least four occupants.

Timing for Australia is unclear but it could arrive in 2018, which is the same year that Renault launches its Alaskan concept-based pick-up and Mercedes-Benz introduces its version of the same vehicle, both based on the Nissan NP300 Navara.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and Jeep CEO Mike Manley reportedly confirmed at the Detroit motor show earlier this year that the pick-up would reach production in late-2017.

Further details were revealed in late-January when FCA released an update to its business plan that showed the next-generation Wrangler SUV would be offered with a new diesel engine before 2022 – potentially the new 3.0-litre turbo-diesel unit from the Ram pick-up – while a mild hybrid powertrain would be added after 2022.

Currently the Wrangler is available in Australia with the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine powering most variants, with an ageing 2.8-litre VM Motori diesel engine also offered.

While FCA is looking to expand its manufacturing capabilities in the Asian region, FCA Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty said it was “a pretty good bet” that the next-gen Wrangler “would only be built in the US”, aside from the possibility of continuing the deal to assemble complete knock-down kits in Egypt.

FCA Australia director marketing and product strategy Zac Loo told journalists that the company believes there is an opportunity in the busy light-commercial ute segment for a pick-up version of a true off-roader.

“Obviously the Wrangler is unrivalled for off-road ability and is a very unique car in the market,” he said.

“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.” Mr Loo said the Jeep would stand out in a segment that has a lot of similar offerings and will appeal to buyers that want to be able to go off-road but use their vehicle for other purposes.

“This is going to be for people that want a car they can take onto a work site, that’s capable off road but has a ute back. 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.” Last year, FCA built more Wranglers than any previous year, with 255,283 produced for global consumption.

In Australia, the Wrangler found 2106 homes last year, a dip of 27.4 per cent over its 2014 result that put it at the unpopular end of the sub-$70,000 large-SUV pack. However, it outsold its rival Toyota FJ Cruiser by more than 670 units.

Sales have dropped further in the first three months of 2016, with the 331 units shifted representing a 39 per cent slide.

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