Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An open letter to Jeep

Dear Jeep,

For the love of god and all things holy, you have been playing our emotions like a grand piano long enough.  How have you managed to frustrate me so much?  Well, if you must ask...

To put it bluntly: stop teasing us with these "concepts" that you will never build more than one of.  For eight years now you've been showing concepts that make us Jeep fans drool all over our keyboards, but we still don't have a production pickup to buy.  I know, I know, you sell the JK-8 Independence.  It's a pretty awesome kit if you ask me.  BUT there's a big difference between a truck that comes off the production line with a bed and one that starts life as a Wrangler and only becomes a pickup after you spend $5500+ on a conversion kit.

 JK-8 Independence
(Source: Motor Trend)

 JK-8 Independence on the left, Comanche on the right, the last of the Jeep pickups.
(Source: Truck Trend)

Last year you brought the Nukizer concept to the Easter Jeep Safari.  We knew from the start it wasn't destined for production, but it was still a badass pickup concept.  Actually, the most badass pickup concept.  Ever.

The badass Nukizer concept.  This thing screams attitude.
(Source: cars.com, examiner.com)

A year later, the JC-12 shows up.  The press is all over this truck, and while some think it's overshadowed by the Mighty FC Concept (which has even less of a chance of being produced than the Nukizer, thank you crash tests), this is a truck that looks production-ready and should be rolling off the line 2013.  Seriously, Jeep, build the JC-12.  I'm begging you.

The awesome JC-12 Concept.  Words cannot describe how in love with this truck I am.
(Source: www.sensethecar.com)

Or hell, bring back the Gladiator concept from 2004 and build that.  There's so many reasons to build a small-to-midsize pickup.  In fact, it almost makes less sense not to build it than it does to build it.  But clearly you don't understand that.  Need some convincing?  Here's why you should grow some and build a truck:

The Gladiator Concept.  Yes, the spare tire is ridiculous
(Source: Netcarshow.com)

1) The small-to-midsize pickup market is dwindling, and as such there is the potential to grab a huge market share.  Here's an idea, let's assess what small and midsize pickups are out there right now.  The Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon are soon to be replaced by a new, less-rugged, more city-oriented generation built in Thailand.  The current version of the twins is nothing impressive; bad materials on the inside, bad engines under the hood (except for the V8, thank you GM for putting a great engine in a not-so-great vehicle, once again), a poor chassis and lack of equipment results in a bad truck overall.  Nissan's Frontier is solid but is becoming quickly out-dated and it gets poor gas mileage at best.  The Toyota Tacoma is decent all-around, but some people just want an all-American truck built by an all-American company.  And if you consider the Honda Ridgeline a "truck," then quite simply you need to learn some things about trucks.  They don't have wrong-wheel-drive (FWD), they aren't unibody, and they have beds bigger than a suitcase.  Sorry, Honda, the Ridgeline isn't a truck, it's a Pilot with a "bed."  Ford Ranger?  A dinosaur.  Production just ended, Ford has no plans to bring the new model to the US.  Oh, and how about within Jeep's own parent corporation?  Dodge killed off the Dakota.  Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/SRT/Ram/whatever doesn't sell a small/midsize pickup any more.  Fill that gap, Jeep.  Sure, somebody in management said a Jeep pickup would steal from Ram sales.  Why does it matter?  Ultimately the profits go to the same company overall.  Sales = money.  Enough said.

2) Not everybody wants or needs a fullsize pickup.  Sure, the gap between small/midsize and fullsize is dwindling, and the gas mileage difference between the two groups isn't enough to justify buying a smaller truck, but there's other reasons.  Some people need a bed but don't want to drive around a behomoth, 6,500+ pound beast.  Some people don't need the ability to tow a 10,000 pound trailer.  These people are the consumers who would be interested in a midsize pickup with the name JEEP stamped on the tailgate.

2) Production wouldn't require much more than addition of new parts and minor re-tooling.  The body panels for the Wrangler are already there...use the hood, roof...hell, use the entire front end from the Wrangler and you're nearly there.  Change the body mounts for a bed, buy a few machines to make tailgates.  Easier said than done, yes, but it's not that much of a stretch considering Chevy has to re-tool entirely when coming out with a new Colorado.  Relatively low costs to get into the market are a good thing.

3) Off-roaders simply want a Jeep pickup.  Sure, the market for Jeeps is quickly becoming more and more street-oriented (people dig the power windows and locks available on the JK Wrangler), but there is still a huge core audience and market segment that wants a highly trail-capable 4x4 with a bed.  Think of all the Wrangler owners who want or need a pickup!  There's been a gap in the product line since the Comanche was killed off in 1992.  Case in point: people pay damn good money for the American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) Brute.

AEV Brute bad-assery
(Source: uncrate.com)

4) The military-spec J8 already exists.  And why it isn't being sold here to consumers is just beyond me.  Raise the sides of the bed a few inches, seal off the cab from the elements, and put in the dealerships for god's sake.  It's painful to know this exists and we can't buy it.

Military-spec Jeep J8
(Source: Autoblog)

Every year you torture us with these freakin' amazing "concepts," a code word you use for "trucks that will make you drool and we will hang in front of your face but we have zero intention of building."  Whoever is in charge of product line management at Jeep needs to understand how much Jeep owners and other small-pickup owners crave a small to midsize pickup that has real off-roadability.  Build this JC-12, call it the Gladiator, or Christ's sake, call it the goddamn tampon if you want, just build it.  Stick a diesel in it, offer it in X, Sport and Rubicon trims and voila, huge freakin' sales!

It doesn't have to be retro or look like an apocalypse-prepped zombie-killing machine (I'm looking at you, Nukizer).  The JT Concept was perfectly simple and would be easy to make (as I mentioned before, re-tool the Wrangler front-end and voila, done).  Okay, maybe extend the bed a little.  Then sell the crap out of it.

The JT Concept
(Sources: Offroaders.com, TruckinWeb, Jeepfan.com)

Die-hard Jeep lovers' emotions can't handle it any more.  Please, we're begging you, build a pickup.  Or at least build one on the next-gen Wrangler platform when it arrives in 2017 (or whenever production is slated for).  It would seriously, seriously be in your best interest to build a real Jeep pickup.  One with real four-wheel-drive.  And a transfer case.  And a diesel with a six-speed manual.  And a no-frills, no power windows or locks, manual-transmission-only X trim.  And a Rubicon trim, with the Dana 44 axles and electronic disconnect sway bars and electronic locking differentials.  It would be the best of the Wrangler world and the best of the pickup world.  An American pickup that's a practical, real-world truck, highly capable off-road, and gets good gas mileage with the diesel?  Sounds like a winner to me.  Build it already.

- Ross B

(Source: Motor Trend)

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