DETROIT -- DaimlerChrysler and supplier Meridian Automotive Systems Inc. are making the Jeep Wrangler's composite hard top easier to handle.
The revamped 2007 Wrangler, due in showrooms in late summer, will have a three-piece sheet-molded-compound hard top in place of the 70-pound, one-piece unit on the current model.
The new design divides the roof into two side-by-side pieces over the driver's seat and the front passenger seat with a separate part covering the rear of the Wrangler.
Drivers easily can remove the separate parts over the front seats and store them on board for replacement in case of a change in the weather.
The back section can remain in place or be removed separately.
The weight and shape of the current sheet-molded-compound hard top can make it complicated to remove and store when it is not in use.
Passengers could get soaked during an unexpected rainstorm when they are miles from the roof.
Making the switch will give
drivers an easy option between full coverage and the open air, Michael Berube, senior manager for Jeep marketing, said last month at
the Detroit auto show.
"Whatever thing people loved about the Wrangler in the past, we wanted to improve," he said.
The molded-in-color sheet-molded compound will weigh less than 20 pounds per piece, said Tyler Hardy, engineering director for exterior, structural and under-the-hood composites for Meridian, of Dearborn, Mich.
Berube said the upgraded Wrangler will have improved acoustics.
The vehicle's plastics overhaul includes plastic blow-molded step assists.
He added: "Every single thing was made substantially better."