Thieves Like Jeeps Too
According to an annual study conducted by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), auto theft rates in the U.S. are on the rise for the first time in 10 years. And interestingly enough, the Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee is the fifth most commonly stolen vehicle. It doesn't stop there, either. Earning a spot in the Top Five meant that theft of the Cherokee line consistently ranked high across the U.S., achieving a No. 1 spot in none other than Detroit. The Jeep ranked second in Denver and Tucson, third in Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, and Baltimore, fourth in New Orleans, Boston, and Jersey City, fifth in Atlanta, sixth in New York, seventh in Miami and Seattle, eighth in St. Louis and San Francisco, and tenth in Dallas. As it turns out, Los Angeles was one of the safest places for Jeep Cherokees/Grand Cherokees, where just one American brand, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, made the Top Ten.
Auto theft throughout the states increased by 1.2 percent from 1999 to 2000, with 1.7 million cars reported stolen. Robert Bryant, President of the non-profit NICB, said the increase could be attributed to the declining U.S. economy, the reassignment of police officers to other responsibilities, and porous international borders. Other commonly stolen four-wheel drives included the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet fullsize C/K pickups, though no other SUVs or trucks made the list. For a complete listing of the most commonly stolen vehicles, check out www.nicb.org.
Explorer Scores High And Low In Crash Tests
In the latest series of crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, which share the same design, earned a Best Pick designation for how it held up after crashing into a deformable barrier at 40 mph. The Insurance Institute rates vehicles as good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on injury measurements on crash dummies, analysis of how the restraint system controlled dummy movement, and how well the occupant compartment held up. The Explorer and Acura MDX were the only SUVs among the 11 tested this year to earn the Best Pick designation. None received a poor evaluation, however, the '02 Jeep Liberty got a marginal rating after the airbag inflated late because a sensor wire shorted out early in the crash. As a result, DaimlerChrysler has recalled 120,000 of these vehicles.
The Explorer, along with the Jeep Liberty, also ranked on the low end among some of the tests. The low-speed crash is designed to check the ability of a vehicle's bumpers to protect it from frame and body damage, and not intended to rate passenger safety. For the most part, they determine how much you're going to get hit in the pocketbook after someone slams you in the rear at 5 mph. Adrian Lund, chief operating officer for the Insurance Institute, called the Liberty and Explorer shortcoming, "disheartening," and added that, "Making a strong bumper isn't a great engineering feat."
The Jeep Liberty fared worst of all in the low-speed crash test that called for backing into a flat barrier at the vehicular equivalent of a slow jog. As a result, the Liberty's spare tire pushed into the tailgate, causing extensive sheetmetal damage, shattering the rear window, and damaging the rear windshield washer motor. The repair bill or the single crash totaled $1,719. Damage to the Explorer totaled $5,432 in the four 5-mph crashes.
Rubicon Edition Wrangler
Imagine driving your new Jeep TJ off the showroom floor and straight onto the Rubicon. Or how about one of the Hammer Trails in Johnson Valley, California? Tellico? Moab? Well, now you can. Providing the Jeep you're in is the '03 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Model. No doubt responding to the ever-growing appeal of the Jeep TJ in any form, and recognizing how quickly consumers modify their new rigs, the Chrysler Group began offering the new vehicle last January. And truly, it's one of the most capable out-of-the-box rigs we've ever seen.
The Wrangler Rubicon isn't just a TJ with big tires. In fact, it has a host of primo parts often lusted after by 'crawlers. Dana 44 axles sit in the front and rear, both stuffed with switch-activated locking diffs spun via a NVG241OR 4:1 transfer case. This all-new 'case, made specifically for the Wrangler, slows vehicle speed to a crawl and increases the amount of torque available at the wheels. Four-wheel disc brakes were added to stop the 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires mounted to 16-inch five-spoke, aluminum, dish-faced wheels. In the power department, Jeep went with the popular 4.0L PowerTech I-6, capable of 190 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque, and is offering it with either manual or automatic transmissions. Check your local dealer for pricing and availability.
According to an initial customer survey carried out by DaimlerChrysler AG, the average Jeep Liberty buyer is a bit older, wealthier, and more female than those who bought the Liberty's much-missed predecessor, the Jeep Cherokee. Still, however, among the Top 10 reasons for buying either vehicle, customers stated their reasoning as: It's American-made, has four-wheel drive, and is off-road capable. Of the 300 or so surveyed, the average Liberty buyer makes $71,000 per year, is 41 years old, and half of them are women. Jeep reports that the demographics are likely to look different for next year because they introduced a cheaper four-cylinder Sport model in late 2001.
Specialty Top Company BuysKayline Manufacturing
After 43 years in the business, Kayline Manufacturing, a maker of soft tops for a number of makes and models of 4x4s, has sold its tooling and patterns to Specialty Top Company in Denver. Specialty employs many people formerly of Kayline and ensures that it'll continue the level of quality, using the expertise built by Kayline. Specialty offers soft tops for Jeep, Bronco, Scout, Blazer, Suzuki, Ramcharger, and Isuzu applications. For more information, contact: Specialty Top Company, Dept. 4WDSU, 200 E. 64th Ave., Denver, CO 80221, (303) 487-9939, (866) 487-9944, www.specialtytopco.com.
ARCA Signs Skyjacker For 2002/2003 Seasons
Ranch Pratt, President of the American Rock Crawlers Association (ARCA), is a happy man. Not only did he spearhead one of the coolest off-road event series around, but he also harnessed two of the largest players in the off-road aftermarket industry to sponsor it. With help from Goodyear, and now Skyjacker, Ranch and ARCA are aiming for a minimum of a $20,000 payout per event. Moreover, thanks to pledges of support from Goodyear and Skyjacker, the series winner will take home a total of $45,000. Not bad bucks for crawling over rocks.
In other ARCA news, and as previously reported in this news section, ARCA will not be dividing its series into separate classes and will maintain a single Open Class. Thoughts on two classes were examined, yet ARCA decided it was in the sport's best interest to stay with the previously used Open Class. Other changes to the 2002 rulebook cleared up the rear steer controversy. During the 2001 season, competitors were fined three points per obstacle for the use of rear steer.The new rules for 2002 state that competitors will now be penalized eight points per obstacle for the use of rear steer. Changes were also made concerning gate scoring. For the complete rulebook, visit the ARCA Web site at www.rockcrawler.org.