Detroit automakers are working overtime to renegotiate their contracts with the UAW. As news of those talks leaks out, so do some intriguing hints about products that may (or may not) lie down the road.
Ford, for example, is considering the return of the Ford Bronco SUV and the mid-size Ford Ranger pickup. Across town, Auto News reports that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles might be planning a new truck, too -- one based on the Jeep Wrangler.
Details are still very vague, based solely on comments provided by FCA's sometimes cryptic, sometimes outspoken, always sweater-clad CEO Sergio Marchionne. The automaker says that it will provide more complete details after the ink dries on the UAW contract, sometime after September 14.
For now, here's what we know:
- FCA is moving production of the Cherokee crossover out of Toledo, Ohio. It will likely end up in Michigan or Illinois.
- FCA is keeping Wrangler production in Toledo, and it's going to revamp the nearby Cherokee facility -- which is larger and is currently designed to produce unibody vehicles like crossovers -- to accommodate body-on-frame vehicles like the Wrangler and Ram trucks. That's important, because Marchionne says he wants to expand Wrangler production, and the bigger, redesigned factory will give him room to do so.
- Part of Marchionne's expansion plan appears to be growing the Jeep lineup. While FCA hasn't confirmed (or denied) a Jeep pickup, a range of insider sources say that such a vehicle has been in discussion for a while. At least one group of analysts believes that production on the pickup will begin in late 2017 or early 2018.
The launch of a Jeep truck wouldn't be all that surprising. Jeep hasn't offered a pickup in over two decades, since the Jeep Comanche bid the world adieu in the early 1990s. Since then, Jeep itself and its many enthusiasts have been tinkering with their own versions of Jeep pickups -- most recently, at this year's Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, where we saw the Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Safari Concept.
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Also, thanks to the booming U.S. economy, strong construction market, and low gas prices, pickup sales are through the roof. Now could be a perfect time for FCA to cash in on a smaller, spunkier cousin to the full-sized Ram.
That said, 2017 seems a bit soon for a vehicle that's just begun to hit the rumor mill. Given how many years it takes to develop new models, you'd think that if a Jeep pickup were in the works, something might've leaked by now -- maybe even a concept showing at the Detroit Auto Show.
Then again, Ford completely surprised the auto world this year with the Ford GT supercar, so who knows? Maybe it's possible to keep secrets these days after all.
The biggest question of all is: would you buy it?