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MiscellaneousCamp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
Posted by mike on 2007/8/2 9:29:00 (2415) reads

ScramblerKen attended Camp Jeep 2007 and has been providing us with some reports of the event. In today's post, he covers the Engineer Roundtable - a chance for Jeep owners to ask questions to the Jeep engineers who actually design and build Jeeps for Chrysler Group.

One of the best ways to get an idea on what Jeep is planning on or developing is to attend the Engineer round table and visit the Engineer tent at Camp Jeep. My hat is off to Jeep for giving us the opportunity to talk directly to the engineers. This is actually very risky, but Jeep obviously preps their engineers before the event as getting any real juicy info directly out of their mouths is close to impossible. On the other hand, if you listen careful, you do get hints of what lies in the future.

Please be careful from what you read in this article as this is simply some of my observations, and none should be taken as hard facts. On the other hand, much of this is coming directly from the horseís mouthÖ

First off, Jeep must have some interest in building a Jeep pickup truck. Both the JT and the AEV Brute were present, and they were positioned on the main walk way to the entrance to the Engineer tent. I had the opportunity to chat with one of the Product Futures Engineers regarding the JT. Iíll save that information for my last article.

At my round-table, there were close to ten engineers. Iím delighted to say that the Jeep engineers are a fun and enthusiastic group. I think with the release of the Mercedes arm, the group is actually more relaxed. The other big plus I saw is that most of them are also Jeep owners.

Ok, now onto the juicy stuff. Most of the time, the roundtable is some planned questions to us, with the engineers sometimes fielding our questions, or the engineers asking additional questions. Here are a few highlights:

Diesel engine: In the past, this was usually asked by an audience member. This time it was a question to us in the form of how much additional cost would we be willing to pay for a Diesel option. My gut feeling is we are still a few years away before the Wrangler is sold in the US with this option, but if Diesels become accepted in the USA, and then this will become a reality. In the past, usually 1/3 of the group would be interested in a Diesel engine. This year, close to 2/3 of the group was interested.

Alternate Fuel: Because we were discussing the diesel power plant, one of the engineers brought out the fact that by 2012, most Chrysler vehicles will be able to use E85 fuel. Personally, this is ok, but considering most vehicles get less MPG with E85, and with the issues of corn futures, Iíd rather Jeep concentrate on giving us a good Diesel engine. Heck, there are numerous ways to create bio-diesel fuel, and you would get better MPG than the conventional gas engine.

Replacing the 4wd shift lever: One interesting question was how we would feel if the standard 4WD lever was replaced by electronic controls. Everyone in the group hated the idea. Some of the key reasons to do this are regarding the gear clash that occurs when shifting into 4WD-Low. Normally, you should be slightly moving when you shift into 4WD-Low so the gears can sync up. Jeep has received complaints from customers on this issue, and the simple solution is to switch to an electronic system. My gut feeling is that most of the Jeep line will move to this direction. Even though we were unanimous in that we want the old lever, the engineers seemed somewhat adamant they want to go the electronic direction.

More Electronic Wizardry: Now that the Wrangler has electronic stability control, the Engineers are looking at more ways to tap into this. A couple of ideas include assisting the stability for those of us that hook-up a trailer to our Wrangler. The other ideas revolve around hill descent and hill climbing. Most of these tricks use the brake system to provide these features. All in all, most of this sounds like good ideas, as long as they donít get in the way of the off-road capabilities of the Wrangler or dramatically increase the cost of the vehicle.

Body Style changes: This was somewhat different. We were asked about what we like and donít like about the new Wrangler body. We had a few us complain that the 4-door looks too much like a Hummer H2/H3 especially the way the windows are not as long. A usual debate of who copied who Jeep or Hummer went on. The other interesting part was some of us asked about the JT. But for some info on that, you have to wait until my next article.

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Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/3 17:20  Updated: 2007/8/3 17:20
Just popping in
Joined: 2006/5/23
From: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 4
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
This time it was a question to us in the form of how much additional cost would we be willing to pay for a Diesel option.

The diesel option in the Grand Cherokee costs $3,700 additional. I spent over $5,000 for gas last year. Diesel fuel costs about the same as gas; if a diesel gets 20% better mileage, I'd save roughly $1,000 per year. It would pay for itself in less than four years, plus I'd get the benefit of the better low end torque.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/2 17:13  Updated: 2007/8/2 17:13
Not too shy to talk
Joined: 2006/9/18
From: North Central Mass
Posts: 22
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
i pretty much agree with almost everything the engineering team wants to do. i bet that if they put electronic controls in the 4wd system and kept the lever no one would care. jeep has told us many times that only a small percentage of jeep drivers actually take them off-road. if they dumb down the controls a little bit to get a larger market share, thats fine with me. whatever makes jeep last longer and sell more units. they are still jeep, they aren't going to make the wrangler have the off-road capabilities of a cross-over. there are plenty of parts available in the after market to make any jeep more off-road worthy if the small mainority wishes. tierney of the minority will no longer rule at jeep. i don't mind if they soften the ride and put more electronic do-dads in it. that will only increase sales-a good thing.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/2 21:53  Updated: 2007/8/2 21:53
Just can't stay away
Joined: 2007/1/11
From: New Hampshire
Posts: 83
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
It is a very interesting point you bring up. If it is true that such a "small minority" is concerned with the more "off-road worthy" features, why is the Rubicon such a big seller? Why don't the people just buy the less "off-road worthy" models like the Sahara? They would save money! Maybe I have made a bad assumption. Perhaps the people who purchase the Rubicon are considered to be a "small minority". If that is the case, I guess I am way out in left field. However, if it is not the case, there seems to be an inconsistency in the argument.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/3 10:39  Updated: 2007/8/3 10:39
Quite a regular
Joined: 2006/5/23
Posts: 49
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
I know two people who own Wrangler Rubicons and neither has ever touched the 4WD level. Rubicon is a status symbol first and off road package second. Rubicon sales are a smallish percentage of overall Wrangler buyers and even the Rubicon owners aren't always off roaders.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/2 12:22  Updated: 2007/8/2 12:22
Just can't stay away
Joined: 2005/7/13
From: Peoria
Posts: 150
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
When I was at the Commander/Grand Cherokee roundtable they asked us to fill out a survey after.
I sat down with an engineer and the survey was about the 4wd lever also. He had a sample of a dial switch and asked all kinds of detailed questions about what kind of switch I would prefer and what functions I would like it to perform. Would I like words or pictures on the switch. I think they are going to go to dial like switch like Land Rover uses. You can dial in sand, mud, rock etc..
That was the feeling I got.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/2 11:36  Updated: 2007/8/2 11:36
Just popping in
Joined: 2007/7/20
From: Upstate NY
Posts: 20
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
"Replacing the 4wd shift lever: One interesting question was how we would feel if the standard 4WD lever was replaced by electronic controls. Everyone in the group hated the idea. '
I like the Lever. Save the Lever. I know that when I grab it and pull, something happens. Sure it makes noise, It is doing something.I remember having to get out and lock out the front hubs!
"More Electronic Wizardry:"
Oh god no. water/mud/dust hate electronics. Where do we drive Jeeps? in the water/mud/dust...'nuff said
"Body Style changes"
If I wanted something that looked like a Hummer, I would buy one. I want my Jeep to look like a Jeep. Doors off, top down, lift kit and loud tires. Thanks, but don't add "culture" to the Jeep.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/2 11:18  Updated: 2007/8/2 11:18
Just popping in
Joined: 2006/11/1
Posts: 8
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
Replacing the 4wd shift lever: One interesting question was how we would feel if the standard 4WD lever was replaced by electronic controls. Everyone in the group hated the idea.

Argh! Why do the engineers hate the lever? Back in the 2002 or 2003 Grand Cherokee roundtable, they asked about the lever in our Grands, and we were unanimous in loving it. When the WK (and MK twins) came out, we got a "lever" -- that little plastic thing. It's all electronic controls, but it's still a lever, right?


Poster Thread
Posted: 2007/8/6 12:30  Updated: 2007/8/6 12:30
Just popping in
Joined: 2006/4/20
Posts: 4
 Re: Camp Jeep 2007 - Engineer Roundtable
The engineering round tables are one of the reasons I go to Camp Jeep on a regular basis, and over the last 4 years I have been getting more concerned as to the direction the engineers seem to be moving.
Based on feed back from owners (they sure didnít listen to me) the Wrangler has gotten larger (while I agree that there is a market for a larger Wrangler, there is still a very large market for the small Wrangler (how about splitting this into two models if you want to go the way, You canít be everything to everybody in one model of jeep). (A number of models seem to have grown in 2008, you know bigger is not always better guys).
The engineers also seem to be more concerned with adding features like up and down hill assist. Personally I would rather have Jeep spent some of their vast engineering talent (and I agree there are some talented engineers at Jeep) working on things like designing a vent system that is harder to plug up, or at least one that when it does get plugged up doesnít dump a bunch of water in the floor boards of my Jeep Rubicon (come on 35K for a Jeep and I have to pull the cowl to clean out a vent or end up with 2 inches of water around my feet). Another area that the engineers could help out on is redesigning the side mirror locations so that they are not on the door (maybe moving them to the A post) so I can legally take my doors off and still have mirrors without having to buy mirror relocation brackets (and in my case, because I have a 2006, buying 2003 mirrors because the mirrors donít come apart anymore and the brackets for the 2006 mirrors make my Jeep look like it is growing wings and when relocated are for the most part useless.
Donít get me wrong I am a big fan of Jeep engineering; I just want them to start concentrating on getting it ďrightĒ before adding all these new nifty features.
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