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Jeep pickup at least 4 years away, CEO says

Mon, 19 Sep 2011

Jeep CEO Michael Manley says a pickup truck remains a high priority but a Wrangler-based hauler is at least four years away.

"It is too late in Wrangler's product cycle to add a pickup. The 2015 or 2016 time frame makes more sense," Manley said during an interview at the Frankfurt auto show. "That's when we will refresh the Wrangler."

Manley said no decision has been made to build a Jeep pickup.

The Jeep brand has not had a pickup since the Comanche, which was based on the Cherokee platform. The Comanche was introduced as a 1986 model and discontinued in 1992. A pickup has been on the wish list of Jeep enthusiasts and many dealers since September 2010. To many dealers' surprise, the automaker rolled out a Wrangler-based pickup concept last fall at a dealer meeting in Orlando. The concept appeared and disappeared quickly, fueling speculation that a production pickup was planned.

Meanwhile, Manley is tracking sales of a kit offered by Chrysler's Mopar aftermarket arm that provides the parts to convert a Wrangler into a pickup.

"Initial sales projections were not huge because it is an aftermarket product," he said. To create the pickup, a portion of the Wrangler must be disassembled and fitted with the pickup box and other parts.

"But the orders from the dealers are very strong," he said. The JK-8 Independence kit includes a pickup bed floor, body panels, a fiberglass cap and a bulkhead. Dealers or ambitious do-it-yourselfers can do the conversion. The kit costs $5,499, and Mopar says it has sold about 300.

Said Manley: "I am working closely with the product team because I think a pickup would be a great addition and a natural extension of the product line."

Bradford Wernle contributed to this report

By Rick Kranz- Automotive News