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Jeep ute missing in action

Where is it: Jeep dealers would love a rugged one-tonne ute in Australia, but so far, the American brand is sticking to SUVs.

Five-year plan reveals two more Jeep SUVs – but no ute that Australia would love

Jeep logo8 May 2014

By RON HAMMERTON

JEEP’S five-year product plan announced this week appears to have one omission – a one-tonne pick-up.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley hinted at such a vehicle at this year’s Geneva motor show where he said Jeep would need a ute to compete with the likes of Toyota’s HiLux if the American-based company was to challenge for a top 10 position in Australia – one of his ambitions for the brand in this market.

As GoAuto reported at the time, Jeep had been having discussions with another car-maker to rebadge a pick-up for certain markets – presumably Australia and Southeast Asia, and perhaps Latin America.

Mr Manley, who is also in charge of Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Asia-Pacific operations, said at Geneva that the question of a ute might be answered in May when FCA revealed its global five-year plan in Detroit.

But when the Jeep product plan was laid out this week, only two additional Jeep models were announced in the next five years – a small C-segment SUV to replace the Patriot and Compass in 2016, and the large Grand Wagoneer seven-seat SUV to arrive in 2018.

The product planning graphic shown in the presentation by Mr Manley might have been referring only to core Jeep vehicles, developed in-house, and may have excluded any potential ute supplied by a another manufacturer for niche markets.

In the US, FCA brand Ram has been given the pick-up responsibility, but its focus is mainly on the full-sized pick-up market in competition with the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado, among others. It also will rebadge some Fiat Professional vehicles to flesh out the light commercial range in the US.

 center imageLeft: Jeep CEO Mike Manley.

Fiat Professional has an all-new mid-sized pick-up coming in 2016 – most likely built in Brazil – but it is unclear if that vehicle will come to Australia in any form, Fiat or Jeep, or whether it is designed to compete head to head with the predominantly Thai-built one-tonners.

A ute version of the Wrangler has been all but ruled out, despite the fact that Jeep built such a vehicle in concept form – the 2010 Gladiator.

Mr Manley is often quizzed about the prospect of Gladiator production, but so far has dismissed the chances of such a vehicle going into global showrooms.

Jeep has confirmed it will start manufacturing vehicles in Brazil, producing up to 200,000 Jeep-branded vehicles there by 2018.

Brazil will be one of six Jeep manufacturing sites around the world by 2018. Currently, all Jeeps are made in North America.

Jeep production will also commence in China and India, presumably under joint ventures in both these markets.

In Australia, Jeep has taken a 2.5 per cent share in the overall motor market this year – up from 1.9 per cent last year – with sale volumes up 31 per cent year to date, to 8758 units.

A top 10 sales ranking in Australia requires a market share of 3.0 per cent, meaning Jeep would need to add 300-400 units a month to its showroom tally to oust one of the current players from the leading group.

At least part of that could come from Jeep’s all-new Cherokee which is due in June, while the potential to expand further will come late next year when the compact Renegade is due to lob.

Mr Manley told Australian journalists in Geneva that he would like to see Jeep as the leading SUV brand in Australia, and possibly a top-10 contender against all brands.

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