Marchionne says next-gen Jeep Wrangler will be lighter, have more powertrain options

Article by Anita Panait, on January 16, 2014

Fiat-Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne wants the next-generation Jeep Wrangler to be lighter and have more powertrain options to improve fuel economy. "We know we need to update the architecture. We need to take weight out," Marchionne said, adding that the next-generation Wrangler is up for approval in the next 10 weeks.

The Wrangler currently is available with a 3.6-liter V-6 gasoline engine and six-speed automatic or manual gearbox.  Jeep executives have discussed about introducing a diesel variant and more fuel-efficient transmission options. Wrangler purists are concerned fear that the off-roader might do away with its solid front axle in favor of an independent front suspension.

Marchionne, however, said the issue is that Chrysler can't produce enough to meet demand. “The problem we have with Wrangler is that we are at capacity," he said.

Chrysler posted a 10-percent jump in Wrangler sales in the US in 2013 to 155,502 units. According to Marchionne, expanding Wrangler production to meet global demand is "on the table now," but said the vehicle would be produced only in Toledo, Ohio. Marchionne disclosed that the design for the next-generation minivan was now "95 percent" complete, and that the vehicle would arrive in 24 to 30 months.

He added that an internal decision on investing in its Windsor site in Ontario, the assembly for the next-generation minivan that will replace the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan would take place in the first quarter of 2014.

According to Marchionne, higher wages of Chrysler's Canadian unionized employees compared with its UAW-represented workers in the US continues to be an issue. The Chrysler-Fiat CEO said that the Jeep Compass and Patriot are the "weakest links" in Chrysler's North American lineup, but those would be partially addressed when Jeep launched its new subcompact SUV this year. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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