Jeep's familiar plan for a pickup: Is this one for real?

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
Is there a pickup truck in Jeep's future? I've heard this before.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley created a bit of excitement earlier this week at a dealer meeting in Orlando. As he walked off the stage, he said something like “You never know what may show up in your showroom one day.” A few seconds later, the wraps were taken off a Jeep pickup.

That's it. No explanation, no idea if it's a concept or nearly production.

This isn't the first time there has been talk about reintroducing a pickup to the Jeep line. The last Jeep pickup was the Comanche, which ended production in 1992.

Last decade, Jeep planned to produce the Scrambler pickup. The pickup was based on a stretched Wrangler platform and had a four-foot bed. Production was slated for July 2004. Several months later it was canceled.

At the 2005 Detroit auto show, Jeep introduced the Gladiator pickup concept, a more stylish vehicle than the Scrambler. Then-product chief Frank Klegon strongly suggested that the Gladiator was a real possibility. Again, the pickup was a no-show in the showroom.

Then, there was the Jeep JT concept that was introduced a few years later at a SEMA show, a rugged-looking vehicle that looked production ready. Again, a no-show.

But things might be different this time.

The reason?

Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne and Manley likely realize the sales potential for a Jeep pickup outside North America. A key element probably would be production outside North America for the European, Asian and African markets. After all, Fiat has plenty of plants. Annual sales in the 50,000 to 100,000 range might be possible outside North America.

So, is this a done deal? I don't know.

But if Chrysler can scrape up the money, I bet a Jeep pickup will be on the production line in two or three years.