DETROIT -- After saying earlier this year that the next-generation Jeep Wrangler had to lose weight, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne dropped a heavy hint as to how it might do so:
Speaking to reporters after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' marathon business plan presentation, Marchionne said Chrysler would be watching Ford's rollout of its aluminum 2015 F-150 very closely to gauge market acceptance. But he said there were "better uses" for aluminum bodies at Chrysler besides its hot-selling Ram pickup.
Asked by Automotive News if there is a better use for the lightweight metal in Chrysler's lineup beyond the Wrangler, Marchionne was succinct: "No."
The redesigned Wrangler is due to enter production in 2017 for the 2018 model year. If Jeep is to meet its corporate average fuel economy goals, the body-on-frame Wrangler should become more fuel efficient than its current 17 city/21 highway mpg rating for the two-door 4x4 models.
The 2014 Wrangler's weight ranges from a low of 3,785 pounds for the two-door 4x4 to a high of 4,340 for the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4x4.
For comparison, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee 4x4, with lighter unibody construction, weighs 4,044 pounds. Its mpg rating is 19 city/25 highway.
Jeep designers and engineers have already been working on the next-generation Wrangler for months. Earlier engineering job postings indicated that they are attempting to shed pounds and add room for additional powertrain options, such as an eight-speed automatic transmission and possible diesel engine.
Marchionne and Jeep head Mike Manley said in January that the next-generation Wrangler's design was to be finalized by spring.