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Jeep to go soft-core

For starters: Dodge Caliber concept will form basis of two Jeep soft-roaders.

Jeep to build its first car-based soft-roaders based on the Dodge Caliber concept

12 Jul 2005

CHRYSLER Jeep Australia managing director Gerry Jenkins says he supports moves to expand the Jeep brand into new directions, including passenger car derivatives, but would not be drawn on specific details.

"Look, I can’t comment about future product but I certainly support any moves to build the brand," he said.

Industry journal Automotive News earlier this month reported that Jeep was planning to build two car-based cross-over 4WDs, codenamed the MK49 and MK74, to capitalise on the burgeoning mid-size 4WD market segment.

9 center image Although Jeep has not confirmed the plans officially, sources say Jeep’s first car-based "soft-roader" models will share a platform with the Dodge Caliber hatchback, which replaces the Dodge Neon (previously sold here as a Chrysler) and will form the basis of the Dodge brand's relaunch here in late 2006.

The MK49 will have AWD and sporty styling with a wagon silhouette. The MK74 will have a taller roofline so it looks more like a conventional 4WD, with a wheelbase expected to be slightly longer.

Both vehicles are the first Jeeps not engineered for severe off-road use.

In the US, Jeep is known to already be using the term "trail-ready" in its marketing, prompting some to predict this is an attempt to distinguish between its true off-roaders and the emerging soft-roaders.

Along with the two new soft-roaders, Jeep is also believed to be working on both a two-door and four-door Wrangler replacement, plus a virtually new Cherokee mid-size off-roader expected to be on sale in 2008. Then there's the Gladiator concept (pictured above) - potential off-road flagship for Jeep.

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