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Plant switch: major Wrangler boost

by David Zatz on

According to Automotive News’ Larry Vellequette, the Toledo plant swap — where Cherokee will move to Sterling Heights or Belvidere, and Wrangler will use the modern plant where Cherokees are currently made — will boost capacity to 150% of what it is now.

jeep wrangler pickup

Some of this new-found capacity may be used to increase line downtime for maintenance, but much is likely to be used to increase Wrangler’s popularity, as Mr. Vellequette said, through a U.S. diesel version and a pickup — both predicted by Bob Sheaves in Allpar articles some time ago.

Mr. Sheaves believed that the pickup would run to around 40,000 trucks per year, and be about the same length as the current Unlimited to avoid cutting production. The Toledo plant built under 236,000 Wranglers in 2014, so adding 40,000 pickups to the mix would not strain resources in the new facility.

The question of which diesel would be used is still in question. The company has a choice between the commercial-van Fiat four, Jeep’s traditional choice of a VM four-cylinder (currently not emissions-ready, but expected to be soon), and the VM V6 used in Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Fiat now owns VM but Jeep has used them for decades in Europe.

With the rumored new solid A-pillar, a solid-roof version could also be engineered more easily, perhaps making a lighter, better-mannered variant which would also add to sales. At the same time, Wrangler sales are likely to expand through the world, so that the plant may still be under pressure to perform.

Converting the plants will be a rush job, regardless; by rights, work should already have begun, and Cherokees have not moved out yet.

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