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Jeep to build bakkie, new big SUV

2011-01-12 06:15

GO GLADIATOR: Jeep Gladiator concept could soon morph into a Wrangler-based production bakkie.

Sergio Marchionne, the charismatic boss of Fiat (and by implication Chrysler), has revealed Jeep’s future product planning at a Detroit auto show media conference.

The affable Italian, who faces the stern challenge of making the Fiat/Chrysler corporate marriage work, rather coyly confirmed both the resurrection of Jeep’s legendary Wagoneer nameplate and the introduction of a Jeep bakkie.

With regards to the Wagoneer Marchionne sees a contemporary version of the original American SUV riding on a hybrid Grand Cherokee/Dodge Journey platform and debuting, in conceptual form, by 2013.

Produced for 28 consecutive years (from 1963-1991) the Wagoneer remains for many the seminal Jeep and Marchionne is keen to capitalise on its heritage.

Jeep bakkie on the way

Beyond the revival of Jeep’s influential seven-seater nameplate, Marchionne’s also planning to expand the brand’s bakkie business; which is currently rather limited to custom orders of the J8 – primarily for military use.

Although Marchionne euphemistically refused to use the ‘Jeep’ name explicitly when discussing a new Chrysler multipurpose vehicle featuring a ‘truck bed’, the inference is evident.

When quizzed about the Jeep Gladiator bakkie concept, first seen in 2005 and revived for the auto show circuit in 2010, Marchionne said, "I like that vehicle. I liked it the first day I saw it. There’s a better than 50 percent chance that you’ll get one. Regardless of what Ram says."

Within the Chrysler brand matrix Dodge Ram product planners are opposed to the idea of a Jeep bakkie. Considering the many global markets where Jeep is marketed and Dodge Ram is not, having a Jeep bakkie to fill the gap makes an awful lot of sense.

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