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Wrangler likely to remain in Toledo

by Bill Cawthon on

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Automotive News writer Larry Vellequette reports that the next-generation Jeep Wrangler will most likely remain a body-on-frame design and remain in Toledo.

At the Paris Auto Show, which ended last Sunday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said FCA was considering switching the Wrangler to an aluminum body and unibody construction. He also said converting the Toledo plant to produce an aluminum body would be prohibitively expensive and that there was capacity available in two FCA plants to handle unibody assembly.

FCA has just two body-on-frame plants, Toledo and the Warren Truck Plant, both of which are already maxed out.

Marchionne’s remarks directly contradicted the promise he made at the Detroit Auto Show last January that Wrangler production would remain in Toledo. At that time, Marchionne said “…one of the commitments we’ve made is never to produce a Wrangler outside of Toledo….”

The news was a bombshell: Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and representatives of Ohio Governor John Kasich immediately set up discussions aimed at keeping the iconic Wrangler in the Northeastern Ohio city. They met in Auburn Hills on October 9.

Jeep loyalists were also upset: a steel body is superior to aluminum for severe use, such as demanding off-road trails, and the strength of body-on-frame construction is integral to the Wrangler’s capabilities.

However, FCA is faced with the same challenges as every other automaker: the need to reduce weight to improve fuel economy. Ford’s switch to an aluminum body for its F-150 pickup shaved hundreds of pounds off the trucks weight.

Vellequette writes that knowledgeable sources inside and outside of the company are saying the Wrangler will remain a body-on-frame design though it’s likely there will be a switch to an aluminum body.

On Tuesday of this week, the Toledo city council approved the purchase of 32 acres of land near the plant. While it is assumed the purchase is intended to help keep the Wrangler in Toledo, city officials and Chrysler declined to comment.

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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