TOLEDO, Ohio -- The Jeep Wrangler JK and Wrangler Unlimited JKU, the latter a great product move for a doomed company, go out of production this week. They represent the bookend of a game-changing, if initially flawed, vehicle that was successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams and completely unmatched by rival automakers.
So how best to mark its passing? I guess we'll find out Friday.
That's when the last two-door Jeep Wrangler JK and four-door Wrangler Unlimited JKU are scheduled to roll down the assembly line in what was initially known as Toledo Supplier Park, ending a production run that began in 2006 and was only interrupted for an extended period by Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy.
For the Jeep faithful, Friday is the delayed end of an era that's already been actively replaced by the next one. The redesigned -- and much improved -- "JL" Wranglers have been rolling off of the assembly line on the North end of FCA US' massive Toledo assembly complex since November. The south end of the plant, the old Toledo Supplier Park, is set to be retooled starting next week to begin building the Wrangler-based pickup next year.
In some ways, the end of the JK is like the child of a thrice-married woman mourning the death of his first stepdad: He was a great guy who did great things in the day, and he definitely helped get mom back on her feet. He made us all a bunch of money, and we're grateful, but mom's found someone better now, so it's time for him to go.
It may seem an ignominious end for what is easily the greatest single product call of the entire DaimlerChrysler era — the decision to add two more doors to the Wrangler and create the Wrangler Unlimited, enhancing the iconic nameplate's popularity globally — but it comes after what can best be described as a product life well lived.
The story begins with the JKU's miracle birth.