Announced just a week after the Gladiator’s introduction, FCA announced plans to reopen and engine plant in Detroit to build a three-row version of the next-generation Grand Cherokee coming in 2021.
Certainly, the biggest story coming out of Auto Mobility (LA) Auto Show was the unveiling of the production-ready version of the long-awaited 2020 Jeep Gladiator four-door pickup truck (don’t expect to see a two-door version as two-door pickups are taking an increasingly smaller market share). But of even more importance to Mopar enthusiasts going forward is that at the same time that Ford and General Motors are announcing huge layoffs of white- and blue-collar workers, and in GM’s case, that it will idle two plants producing slow-selling car models, FCA announced that it will reopen the Mack II engine plant to produce a long-wheelbase version of the next generation of the unibody Grand Cherokee coming in the 2021 model year.
First, the Jeep Gladiator. We were on hand as three versions of the 2020 Jeep Gladiator were unveiled by newly appointed brand chief Tim Kuniskis and it was impressive as we expected. In a mid-sized pickup class dominated by the Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, the Gladiator was a clearly a game-changer. While it looks like the new JK Wrangler from the A-pillar forward, Jeep spokespeople made it clear that it’s built on a more rugged frame with more robust axles and mechanical components. The Gladiator features class-leading 7,600-pound towing capability – the press kits showed it in photos towing a classic Jeep Grand Wagoneer – offers both unique soft and hardtop versions not offered by competitors, and of course, removable doors and a windshield that lies flat.
We spoke with several insiders at FCA, including Ralph Gilles, Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, who admitted that there was intense internal debate as to what to call the Gladiator. Many felt that Scrambler, a nameplate applied to the AMC-built, CJ-8 pickup built from 1981-1986, was the better choice. But given that the original full-sized pickup introduced in 1963, and the 2005 concept were both dubbed Gladiator, that was the best choice. Just prior to the start of the LA Auto Show FCA media photos leaked (possibly by design) and the cat was out of the bag with regard to the name for Jeep’s new pickup.
The reveal generated incredible interest from the automotive press, both digital and online, domestic as well as from the international media. In the days that followed the launch event, it seemed that a new YouTube video on the Gladiator surfaced almost every hour, rehashing the reveal. It’s been a long time since any FCA product introduction has generated such a reaction.