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Is the Wagoneer going back to unibody? (Updated)

by David Zatz on

The original Jeep Wagoneer was created in parallel with the Gladiator pickup; they were hefty body-on-frame trucks, with the first independent front suspension in a 4×4 (as options). The design was innovative enough to avoid direct competition.

2018 Jeep® Wagoneer Roadtrip Concept

Earlier this year, an FCA global platform strategy summary sheet was seen (briefly) on social media. It specified two large-car platforms—Giorgio and “Giorgio Global,” a “worldwide platform hybrid.” (As we wrote yesterday, Giorgio Global appears to be a mix of old and new designs.)

The chart does not show the Jeep Wagoneer, but does show the  Grand Wagoneer; past statements indicated that there would be both a Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, differing mainly in trim. Have product planners added Grand to the name to avoid being outclassed by the Grand Cherokee, or is it just a chart artifact? We’ll find out, but it’s a minor point.

Suzq044 rendering from way back in 2016

The body code for Grand Wagoneer is WS, while the future Grand Cherokee is WL (the current Grand Cherokee is WK2).  Both are to be produced at the new Mack Avenue plant—a change from the original plan to make the Wagoneer at the Warren assembly plant, which used to be the only U.S. source of Ram pickups.

There was some talk of moving production of Ram pickups out of Saltillo and into Warren when the U.S. was having its trade tiff with Mexico. That’s largely been resolved, but with Ram sales staying strong, company leaders might be thinking about using Warren for the Ram Classic, or midsize pickups, or as overflow for DT.

The platform guide has the Wagoneer on the same Giorgio Global platform as the Charger and big Maseratis and Alfa Romeos. Could they do a body-on-frame car and a unibody car on the same platform? Technically, given that platforms are sets of dimensions, a very clever set of engineers could do that—but it seems unlikely, somehow.

The platform guide appears to be an older document, made before the decision to switch the Wagoneer onto Ram-based body-on-frame designs, though. Sadly for those who wanted a unibody Wagoneer, happily for those who didn’t, it appears that the success of the “DT” Ram pickups—their smooth ride and efficiency, among other things—have resulted in the Wagoneer moving back to body-on-frame.

As for being made in the new Mack plant, rather than Warren, there are a few factors at play. The Warren plant simply would not be ready in time, and in any case is needed to satisfy increased pickup demand. Mack is being built large enough to have two body lines converging on one point—body-on-frame and unibody—if needed; or, for that matter, it can have separate lines, internally, for the Wagoneer and next-generation Grand Cherokee.

The original Jeep Wagoneer was body-on-frame; the “XJ” Wagoneer and “ZJ” Wagoneer, based on the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, were unibody designs. 

Regardless of the Wagoneer’s technical specs, people in Brampton might be worried; they’ve gotten some recent upgrades, but Charger and Challenger production could probably move right into Mack Avenue or the Jefferson Avenue plant next door, especially if the large cars and Grand Cherokee converge into a single platform. There is one soothing note: FCA has never closed a North American assembly plant.

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