Camp Jeep – Gladiator in the Future?

Date 2006/8/17 8:44:16 | Topic: Concept/Demonstration

Another great report from Camp Jeep from ScramblerKen...

Another great feature about going to Camp Jeep is the opportunity to chat with the Jeep engineers. I give credit to Jeep as this is risky and gutsy on their part. I can’t think of any other car company that gives the customers direct access to their engineers.

Engineers are an interesting breed, and most are usually passionate about their work. Auto engineers have a tough job dealing with government rules, bean counters, and trying to build what the customer wants. I think we owe a big thanks to these guys and gals for designing Jeep vehicles as versatile and capable, yet easy to modify to let us build pretty much anything we want.

I’m grateful to the Jeep engineers to leave their home and families to spend a few days with us Jeepers. I had a minor issue with my ’05 Wrangler Unlimited, and these guys went out with me and hooked up some diagnostic tools to help analyze the problem. The also were very approachable and willing to answer just about anything.

One of the informal discussions I had was regarding the Gladiator concept (see http://www.allpar.com/model/jeep/gladiator.html) and if we might see this vehicle in the Jeep line-up. Obviously they can not confirm or deny any future plans, but if you listen to what they ask and read between the lines, you get some hints about the future.

As far as the Gladiator, I think there is serious interest, but the engineers hinted they have problems with producing something like this. It is not a technical detail, but more of what the vehicle should be, and who should they market this beast for.
First, the Gladiator concept is not built on the new Wrangler platform. Like the Rescue concept, the vehicle is a full sized truck built on a RAM 2500 or something close to that. Building a full size truck would compete directly with the Dodge line. The Ram is highly mass produced, which keeps the cost down. A full size Gladiator is a bit of a specialty, so would we be willing to pay a premium for this?

Typical Wrangler owners like to take there vehicle’s on Jeep trails. A lot of these trails are designed for short narrow vehicles. Should Jeep build a version of the Gladiator based on the new Wrangler platform? If they do, now we are talking about a small compact truck. Would that sell?

Building a compact truck on the Wrangler platform also has issues. If they use the 4-door wheelbase platform, this probably does not allow much of a pickup bed. If they extend the wheelbase, what happens to break-over angles and other off-roading issues? The engineers hinted at the fun they had with just adding 10 inches to the wheelbase on the TJ to make the 2-door Unlimited. They also had to be careful to not make the tail too long like the old CJ8 where many bobbed the backend when off-roading. The Egyption TJL even has a longer wheelbase, and on some trails this can be a problem.

Basically, the big issue is if Jeep builds a pickup, what would we as consumers want to use it for? If we just want it to be an everyday pickup, why not just buy a Dakota or other truck. If we want it for some trail running, what would we be willing to accept?

The other issue is should it be just a 2-door cab like the Scramblers? This means no room behind the front seats. Try to find a compact truck today that is not at least an extended cab. Should it be a 4-door cab with a very small pickup bed? Should it be a club cab with no back seating, but with the ability to extend the pickup bed into the cab? There are lots of possabilities, and to be profitable, they can not make every variation. Jeep only sells about 100,000 Wranglers a year. How many Gladiator pickups could they sell, and still be profitable? The 2-door Unlimited probably accounts for 50,000 units for its 2 ½ year run. This vehicle was profitable because it was only a minor variation to the existing TJ. To do the Gladiator, they either have to share some platform, or if it is on a unique platform, they will need to sell a lot. Sharing the platform with the Dakota is always a possibility, but would Jeepers really go for it?

Reading between the lines, I don’t think Jeep has any definite plans to build a Gladiator pickup truck on the new Wrangler platform yet. The key word is not ‘yet’. I think we could help Jeep out by letting them know what we would like, how much we would pay, and what we would want to use it for. I know Jeep periodically ‘trolls’ thru web sites like this, so if you have thoughts on this, why don’t you leave a comment. Who knows, maybe something will happen. How many of us thought they would produce the 2-door Unlimited, and now a 4-door Wrangler?




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