RICK KRANZ

Jeep pickup hype was just that; real thing is undecided

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.
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A pickup is on Jeep’s wish list, but the vehicle is a few years away from production -- assuming it’s built.

Back in September, Jeep created a roar of excitement at its dealer event in Orlando.

Jeep CEO Michael Manley ended his presentation there by saying: “You never know what might show up in your showroom someday,” according to a person who attended the meeting.

Manley then walked off the stage, and a pickup concept appeared briefly from behind the curtains. Manley said nothing about whether Jeep will produce the pickup.

Within weeks of the event, the Web was buzzing that the pickup was a done deal. One Web site even suggested it was arriving next year.

Well, it ain’t so.

In conversations with the folks at Jeep earlier this month, the enthusiasm remains high to create a Jeep pickup truck. But the pickup is by no means around the corner, nor is it a “done deal” the pickup even will be developed, I was told. There are unspecified priorities within the company that need to be resolved first, separate from financing.

Grumbling by the Ram team

For one thing, the Ram team is grumbling, I hear. Jeep would be stepping on their toes, cannibalizing their pickup sales. After all, Jeeps and Rams are sold in the same showrooms.

Additionally, Chrysler is wrestling with a shortage of engineers. We ran a story earlier this month that Chrysler is looking for 1,000 additional engineers. There is limited capability until the automaker is at full strength.

I asked the Jeep folks whether there would be a quick fix until a vehicle is developed from the ground up. Jeep currently builds a pickup for the Egyptian military. But they told me it is not worth the time and effort to dial down that truck. Retail buyers would not be happy with the result.

If Jeep creates the pickup, it would be sold globally, and I won’t be surprised if most of the sales eventually were outside North America. If so, that likely would lead to assembly outside North America, too.

Barring some financial calamity, a Jeep pickup likely will be developed eventually. But the picture painted by the folks at Jeep is that the first pickup -- if approved -- is years away. It’s not a high priority.

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