After the Bataan Death March of information that was the 11-hour-long FCA Investor Day – otherwise known as Chryslerpalooza – the automotive world is still trying to digest what it all means. But at least one interesting tidbit hasn’t gotten lost: 2017 might see the arrival of an aluminum Jeep Wrangler.
Fiat/Chrysler CEO and godfather Sergio Marchionne hinted at the possibility when he was asked about the company’s future use of aluminum. A reporter for Automotive News asked Marchionne whether he could think of a better use for aluminum than on the Wrangler. Sergio responded simply: “No.”
According to Road & Track, this interchange took place after Marchionne had already discussed the use of aluminum on the Ram. Specifically, he said that while Ram has the capability of building an aluminum-bodied truck, the engineering team doesn’t think it is the best use of the material.
These statements, when taken together, lead us to think that the Wrangler might well be getting an aluminum body or even a aluminum unibody when it is redesigned in 2017. It makes sense, too. Like every automaker, Fiat/Chrysler is fighting to get its fuel standards up to meet the CAFE regulations. Keeping the weight on a vehicle like Wrangler down could go a long way in that direction.
Aluminum also has advantages for off road vehicles, as Land Rover has demonstrated. An aluminum body helps keep the center of gravity low, preventing the truck from rolling, and unlike steel aluminum wont rust or corrode no matter how much you mistreat it. And while it may not be as strong as steel, riveted aluminum body panels are incredibly easy to replace.
I would feel more confident in saying that the next Wrangler will be aluminum if it made less sense. After all this is Chrysler we are talking about, and that company’s decision making is to put it nicely … confusing.