Next Jeep Wrangler Could Feature Aluminum Body Instead of Steel

Oct 04, 2014 08:50 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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The next-generation Jeep Wrangler could be built from aluminum instead of steel in a move that would shift its production from the Toledo plant in the U.S. state of Ohio.

Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said at the Paris Auto Show this week FCA was doing a number of engineering studies, also looking to downsize the engines of popular sport utility vehicle and boost their capabilities, according to Reuters.

"One of the things we are debating is whether this thing requires going into a material other than steel," Marchionne said to reporters during the event.

"If the solution is aluminum, then unfortunately Toledo is the wrong place, the wrong set-up to try build the Wrangler because it requires a complete reconfiguring of the assets that would be cost prohibitive."

FCA recently started producing a small Jeep, the Renegade, in Italy and plans to localize production of Jeeps in Brazil and China by 2015.

Marchionne said he would hold on his commitment to never move Wrangler production outside the U.S.

One issue facing the company was what else to do with the Toledo plant that would "fulfil its commitment" to the city and the state, Marchionne said during the event. He added that there would be "zero impact on head count and employment levels".

The plant produces both the Wrangler and the Jeep Cherokee currently.

The Wrangler is one of two best-selling models for the brand that traces its roots to the World War Two military vehicles.

Smaller engines would also be needed in order to improve the fuel economy of the Wrangler.

"We firmly believe that we have to downsize the engines that are going into the Wrangler, just in terms of displacements, and then increase the capabilities by putting turbos in and doing other things to that engine," Marchionne said.

Marchionne said the company is on track to sell 1 million Jeeps this year, a 37 percent increase from 2013.

By 2018, FCA hopes to increase Jeep sales to 1.9 million vehicles, according to Reuters.

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