1979 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Patrick Rall's picture

The Future Jeep Grand Wagoneer could be Body-on-Frame

FCA recently announced a massive investment in the Warren Truck Assembly Plant to build the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer and with the Warren plant traditionally building body-on-frame pickups – there is a chance that the new range-topping Jeep SUV could be more like the large GM SUVs, with a truck-type architecture.
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A few weeks back, FCA announced that they would invest $1 billion in the Warren Truck Assembly Plant and the Toledo North Assembly Plant. The work at the Warren plant will prepare it for the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, along with enabling the plant to produce the Ram Heavy Duty models which are currently built in Mexico while the investment in the Toledo North plant will prepare the facility for the upcoming midsized Jeep pickup truck.

Most people were so excited to hear that the new Jeep Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer and pickup truck were definitely coming that they didn’t look at the details for hints as to what to expect.

Based on the decision to build the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant with the Ram 1500 and Ram Heavy Duty (2500, 3500), I believe that the new big Jeeps could be based on a similar body-on-frame construction to the Ram pickups.

Jeeps Built at the Warren Truck Plant
According to the FCA media website, the Warren Truck Assembly Plant has been in business since 1938 and in that time, the facility has produced millions of trucks. From 1938 through 1986, more than 6.7 million Dodge trucks were produced at the Warren plant and since then, millions of Dodge Rams, Dodge Dakotas and Mitsubishi Raiders have been built in the facility. Today, the Warren Truck Assembly Plant produces the Ram 1500 in the quad cab and crew cab configurations and as part of the next big investment, the Warren plant will also be producing the heavy duty Ram 2500 and 3500.

Why does this all matter? Well, Warren Truck Assembly has been in business for almost 80 years and in that time, they have produced well over 10 million trucks – and every single one has been a body-on-frame vehicle. With the mention of Ram Heavy Duty production, we know that FCA plans to continue building body-on-frame trucks at the Warren plant, so I am led to believe that the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer could share the body-on-frame construction.

A Body on Frame Jeep?
Considering the steady transition to unibody SUVs like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and away from body-on-frame SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban, it was expected that the long-rumored Jeep Grand Wagoneer would ride on a stretched version of the Grand Cherokee’s unibody platform. If that were the case, the Grand Wagoneer would be built at the Jefferson North plant, alongside the Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango. Since FCA plans to build the new big Jeep at the Warren truck plant, it certainly looks like the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will be body-on-frame, similar to the Ram trucks.

The move to the heavier body-on-frame construction seems unlikely, but we need to consider two things. First, the Jeep brand is the leader in pretty much every sub-segment of the sport utility world and second, General Motors is relatively unchallenged in their dominance of the true full sized SUV segment. The Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL and the Cadillac Escalade work together to have full control of the big SUV segment, with only a slight bit of competition from the likes of the Lincoln Navigator and the Ford Expedition.

With Jeep looking to control every portion of the SUV segment, it seems logical that FCA would look to build something to rival the big Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac SUVs and to do that – they need a body-on-frame Jeep.

The Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer could exist in similar forms to the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, with shared architecture and drivetrain bits from the popular Ram truck lineup.

Of course, the alternative to this theory is that when FCA spends a portion of the billion dollar investment in the Warren plant, they could be adding a new unibody construction section or a line that will build both body-on-frame and unibody vehicles. However, Warren has always built body-on-frame vehicles and I’m guessing that when Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer production begins a few years down the road – they will be riding on a truck chassis.

Image: 1979 Jeep Grand Wagoneer image from Chrysler


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