FCA head shed Sergio Marchionne said "my gut it tells me we'll still be building a steel truck in 2018," at yesterday's all-day investor meeting, but he acquiesced that he wants aluminum "in the portfolio," and didn't deny the Wrangler was the best place to put it.
Road & Track is speculating that could mean FCA is planning aluminum construction for the next Wrangler, slated to show up in 2017. Nobody's claiming it's a lock, but apparently when Larry Vellequette of Automotive News asked Marchionne "Is there a better use for aluminum in your lineup than Wrangler?" the Fiat-Chrysler boss simply said "No."
With the Ram making a run for second-place in the American pickup race, FCA is obviously going to be watching the 2015 Ford F-150 launch with intense scrutiny. While the new F-150 has heaps of brand momentum to power sales, early performance should provide some insight as to just how much confidence truck buyers have in aluminum.
It's pretty clear Jeep has no intention of departing the Wrangler from it's iconic style, and Jeep CEO Mike Manley is well-aware of how important the vehicle's off-road capability is to sales even while acknowledging many drivers won't utilize it much.
But dropping weight would be huge for every aspect of the Wrangler's performance, which has been getting portlier with each redesign. Aluminum off-roaders worked for Land Rover so many years ago, and as Road & Track pointed out Jeep's own "Stitch Concept" (pictured above) proved aluminum construction could cut more than 1,000 pounds off the JK Wrangler.
With FCA on a consolidation bender, the Wrangler could even depart from a body-on-frame setup and turn into one big stamped-and-rivited monocoque. We won't know for sure until the new Wrangler's 2017 release date gets closer, but I'm pretty sure any significant change to the classic convertible 4x4 will be met with plenty of bitching and moaning from one Jeep fan community or another.