AUSTIN, TX – Jeep enthusiasts waiting to see a diesel engine under the Wrangler’s hood will have to be patient just a little longer.
“Wrangler is on the radar to get (a) diesel,” Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley tells WardsAuto at a drive here of the new Grand Cherokee diesel and other models. “Remember we’re also going through the product change of Wrangler for 2015-16. That will probably be the right time to introduce the diesel into that vehicle.
“I’m confident that the Grand Cherokee will show just how large a demand there is for diesel, and I think what that will do is reinforce the need for us to target Wrangler as a vehicle that can take a diesel.”
The Grand Cherokee SUV and Ram 1500 pickup both will offer diesel powertrains this year, as will the new-for-’14 Ram ProMaster.
The move to improve fuel economy in the wake of toughening U.S. fleet fuel-economy standards has paved the way for more diesel offerings in the U.S. and could make Wrangler a prime candidate for such an engine.
Manley has been fielding questions from Jeep enthusiasts about the potential of a Wrangler diesel since assuming the top spot at Jeep.
“I try and stay as close to social media as I can, because ultimately it has to mean something,” he says of Jeep fans who either ferreted out his email or tracked him down through social media. “If they don’t believe they’re having a dialogue with the house, then for me it’s disingenuous.”
Manley says the auto maker still is looking to expand production of the Wrangler at its assembly plant in Toledo, OH, but does not confirm a published report a third shift has been added.
“We’re obviously looking at ways to increase capacity,” he says. “But it is something that we want to continue to try to work to correct. The brand is oversold on international orders as well as domestic orders. And we’ve been very clear that Wrangler will only be built in the U.S.”
He does confirm a revival of the Grand Wagoneer SUV, slotting above the Grand Cherokee, is a certainty and says the auto maker is working at “getting the vehicle just right.
“We want to make sure it comes off one of the platforms we have today,” he says. “It won’t be an adaptation of a vehicle we have in the Jeep range. This has to be very distinctive within its own right. Really, it’s going to play in a premium segment.”
An earlier announced small cross/utility vehicle supplanting the current Patriot and Compass, both refreshed for ’14, remains on track for the ’15 model year, Manley says, but it’s “way too early” to confirm whether either of the nameplates will live on with it.
In the U.S., the Patriot outsells the Compass, but the Compass outpaces the Patriot globally. New versions with upgraded interiors and transmissions debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.
“One of the things we learned when we did the last refresh of Compass and Patriot is we doubled the volume of our vehicles,” Manley says, defending a decision to not phase out the two after the ’13-model run. “Compass and Patriot for me are very competitive in their segment. There’s great value, great fuel economy and it comes with Jeep capability.
“On a product plan, sure we’re going to replace them. But we still want to represent great value for our customers.”