Wrangler May Switch to Aluminum, But Keep Body-On Frame Design

Oct 24, 2014 02:30 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

During the Paris Auto Show earlier this month, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said the next generation Jeep Wrangler might be switching from steel to an aluminum body. He also added that production of the Wrangler could be moved from Chrysler's Toledo Assembly Plant to two plants outside Ohio to make more vehicles.

Though Marchionne didn't confirm a change, the suggestion has caused quite a stir in the auto community.

"If the solution is aluminum then I think unfortunately Toledo is the wrong set up to try and build a Wrangler because it requires a complete, a reconfiguring of the assets which would be cost prohibitive. I mean it would be just be so outrageously expensive for us to try and work out that facility," in Toledo, Marchionne said.

He later added that the next Wrangler might be a unibody design when he mentioned the automaker had available production capacity in both Belvidere, Ill., and Sterling Heights, Mich.

We have now learned that the next-gen Wrangler will continue to be a body-on-frame vehicle and won't switch to unibody construction, according to Automotive News, citing "un-named sources." This means it will remain compatible with Toledo, no matter if it switches to an aluminum body or not.

Chrysler is said to be leaning towards an aluminum body, though the company hasn't confirmed anything yet.

Production for the popular vehicle will most likely continue at Chrysler's Toledo plant, where city and union officials have been battling for weeks to keep the Wrangler in its home.

Jeep spokesman Todd Goyer declined to comment on the 2017 Wrangler, but was able to say that it will be, "The most capable Wrangler ever," according to Automotive News.

A delegation of city officials led by Toledo Mayor Michael Collins traveled to Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, recently to try convincing Marchionne to keep Wrangler production in Toledo.

Chrysler has just two body-on-frame assembly plants in the U.S.: Toledo, and Warren Assembly in suburban Detroit where the Ram 1500 is manufactured.

Collins said he was happy to find out that Marchionne is dedicated to keep overall employment at Toldeo, even if Wrangler production was moved out, according to NBC 24.

Collins plans to meet with Marchionne in early November.

Through September, dealers in the U.S. have sold approximately 134,068 Wrangers, which is up 12 percent from a year earlier, according to Reuters. 

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