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Jeep pickup rumors swirl again

by Bill Cawthon on

Jeep Gladiator Concept

Rumors of a possible civilian Jeep pickup are making the rounds again. According to PickupTrucks.com, Jeep brand CEO Mike Manley is interested in the idea of a smaller pickup, not so much for the U.S., but for a wider global market where such a truck could compete with vehicles from Nissan and Toyota. Volkswagen is also getting onto the market with the four-door Amarok pickup.

The item posted by Mike Levine noted Jeep pickup concepts continue to spark consumer interest. Mopar’s Nukizer 715 concept received an enthusiastic reception at the Moab Jeep Safari last spring and there was excitement about the J8 Sarge concept that debuted in 2008.

Levine quotes Manley as saying compact pickups have had a tough time in the U.S. but do better globally. Using this as an excuse to dither about a Jeep pickup indicates Manley is either being disingenuous about a Jeep pickup being considered or he needs to take another look at the pickup market in the U.S.

There is only one true, American-badged compact pickup sold in the U.S.: the Ford Ranger and it is basically 27 years old, being largely unchanged since it took over from a rebadged Mazda in 1983. GM dropped its compact S10 and Sonoma compacts and introduced the mid-size Colorado and Canyon which, along with the Dodge Dakota, were close enough in size and price to a full-size pickup that there was no value in selecting the smaller model. That most definitely would not be true of a Jeep pickup – if it’s the right Jeep pickup.

The question in Mike Manley’s mind, and in the mind of Sergio Marchionne, should not be whether to make a Jeep pickup, but what kind of Jeep pickup to make. Should it be a more-or-less conventional pickup, along the lines of the original Kaiser/American Motors Gladiator, or a Wrangler-based truck, like the J8 or the 2005 Gladiator concept (shown above)? Considering that extended cab or crew cab pickups account for the majority of pickup sales, an extended-wheelbase JK might be the way to go: it certainly wouldn’t be confused with anything else! Plus, it would extend the Wrangler franchise and wouldn’t be as price-sensitive as a truck consumers perceive to be just another pickup, one of the problems encountered by the Gladiator and Honcho.

It’s time to drop the other shoe; make the rumors reality and green-light a Jeep pickup.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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