In this modern age of the automotive industry, companies have sought innovative ways to increase fuel efficiency. Aside from smaller, turbocharged engines boasting lighter weight and scaled-back cubic feet of cabin space, other methods like aluminum bodies have become a popular choice. It is, in fact, what the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group has considered for the next generation of the Jeep Wrangler.
There are major changes within the automaker, and the transition from a steel body to an aluminum one is potentially on the agenda. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA, has even indicated that production of the Wrangler will occur somewhere other than Toledo, Ohio, which is where the model has been manufactured since the 1940s (think of the Willys Jeep for the U.S. Army).
“If the solution is aluminum, then I think, unfortunately, that Toledo is the wrong place because it requires a complete re-configuring of the assets that would be cost-prohibitive,” Marchionne explained. “It would be so outrageously expensive that it would be impossible to work out of that facility.”
Chrysler has begun considering the benefits of an aluminum body due to the U.S. government’s requirement that automakers reach a fleet average of 56.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. The newly designed Wrangler with an updated frame is due in 2017.
There’s also other work to be done.
“We need to downsize the engines … and then increase the capabilities by putting turbos in,” the CEO explained. “This requires a complete rethink of the architecture, and before we start committing capital to particular places, we need to make sure that we don’t spend an inordinate amount of money trying to get it done.”
We at Autopark Chrysler Jeep, though, want to emphasize an important point: Marchionne wants to preserve the Wrangler’s heritage as an American vehicle, so Chrysler plants in Mexico and Canada will not manufacture the iconic Jeep model.
“I will never build a Wrangler outside of the U.S.,” Marchionne said. “The commitment to Toledo was certainly in terms of Jeep, and I think the fact that we brought the Cherokee to Toledo is huge. We’re selling over 200,000 of these.”