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Wrangler may leave frame, factory, steel behind

by David Zatz on

The 2017 Jeep Wrangler may leave its historic steel body-on-frame construction and Toledo plant behind, according to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, as quoted by Automotive News Larry Vellequette.

The current Wrangler has good mileage for rugged four wheel drive vehicles, but poor economy overall, at around 17/21 mpg (depending on model and transmission).

Mr. Marchionne said the Wrangler will need to lose weight and might need an aluminum unibody setup; previously, he had implied that Wrangler would be Chrysler’s first car to make extensive use of aluminum since the Plymouth Prowler, whose team was largely hired by Ford.

The 3.6 liter V6 would likely be swapped out for either a Hurricane 2.0 turbo and/or the smaller 3.2 V6. Many believe a diesel will be optional.

Mr. Marchionne said that the Toledo South plant could not handle an aluminum body, but that any solution would not affect local employment. This means that a new plant might be built, or that the plant could also be repurposed (or closed) and the Wrangler moved to Toledo North, Sterling Heights, or Belvidere, though this would mean that the aluminum-bodied Wrangler would be made with steel-bodied cars, which seems unlikely.

The current Wrangler plant was created under Daimler and is enclosed by a “supplier park,” making expansion difficult at best and reducing flexibility.

There has also been considerable talk of using an independent suspension. While there has been an innovative long-travel independent-suspension Wrangler prototype, one suspension engineer said he suspected the company would adopt a version of the Ram 4×4’s setup instead.

Mr. Vellequette pointed out that a unibody setup would “effectively be a modern-day version of the popular Cherokee XJ,” and pointed out that the massive changes could be too much for dedicated Jeepers.


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