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April 2012 RPM Off-Road Industry News

Jeep Jk8 Driving Through Mud
Sean P. Holman | Writer
Posted April 1, 2012

Everything 4x4 Related

Conversion Rate
Mopar’s JK-8 kit is proving more popular than expected. According to Ward’s Auto, Mopar planned to sell 200-300 of the $5,499 kits, but was inundated with 400 initial orders from dealers alone. If you want to find out more about what goes in to the JK-8 conversion, check out Part 2 of our story on page 66. If all the demand only shows one thing, it is that Jeep enthusiasts are ready for a Jeep pickup.

Lone Ranger
Last December 16th, the very last U.S.-spec Ford Ranger rolled off the Twin Cities assembly line in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Ranger, which has been a cornerstone of Ford’s truck lineup since 1983, will be built and sold in other parts of the world, but not in the U.S. The last Ranger, a white SuperCab Sport model, will be joining the Orkin Pest Control fleet. As for the 125-acre plant, the oldest Ford currently operated at the time of closure; it is slated to be demolished.

Rod Hall Extends Record
Our friend and off-road racing legend Rod Hall, the most winning racer in Baja and the only man to compete in every Baja 1000 race since its inception in 1967, has racked up 21 class wins in the event’s 44 year history. This past November, Hall continued his consecutive Baja 1000 race streak by donning his racing suit and climbing in to the #862 Master Pull - Special Operations Warrior Foundation H1 Alpha. Congrats to Rod Hall, who also celebrated his 74th birthday and finished third in his class.

Questioning The Top: Jeep
We recently sat down with Mike Manley, President and CEO of the Jeep brand and asked him a few questions to gain some insight about the future of the brand and the direction it is headed.

FW: Jeep has seen incredible growth over the last few years, are there holes in the lineup you would like to see filled?

Manley: I think there is opportunity for Jeep in three or four areas. Something like the Grand Wagoneer three–row is a great opportunity for us. A smaller Jeep would be very attractive to international customers, as well as increasingly (attractive) here in the U.S. Liberty is a great niche product, but it is niche because of its capability. I think with changes there we can expand the reach. Finally, I think there is room for a pickup within the Jeep lineup.

FW: Mopar has had the JK-8 kit out for a while and at sema aev introduced the JK-based Brute Double Cab. Has there been enough interest in these products to justify development of a Wrangler-based pickup from the factory?

Manley: I think certainly there is enough interest as we look at it right now, for us to be able to go down that route. One of the things that we need to be careful about is where various products are within their lifecycle. As you know, the costs to develop that vehicle are fairly significant. Wrangler is a great bed upon which to build a pickup. As an organization and as we continue our recovery, we have to make sure we are putting the resources where we can get the most effective result for them. I have to say Wrangler pickup, in my view, or a pickup within the Jeep family is right up there. We continue to look at it and as you know I am a big fan of pickups.

FW: How would you respond to enthusiasts who say that the aftermarket is doing something that Jeep can’t or won’t do, which is creating a Jeep pickup, when what they really want is one from the factory?

Manley: I think it is a number of things. Firstly, it does indicate that there is a strong market out there, because as you know, to convert a Wrangler is not the most inexpensive thing. So for me that is an endorsement of a fan base out there for a Wrangler pickup. We track these types of aftermarket sales to make sure product decisions in the future are rooted in solid customer demand. Mopar did a great job and they worked closely with us on that and some may view the JK-8 a forerunner, but we’ll have to see.

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