By Mark Williams for PickupTrucks.com
Jeep hasn't offered a pickup for sale to consumers in North America since the 1992 Jeep Comanche, but the idea continues to be kicked around its halls. Mike Manley, president and CEO of the Jeep brand, expressed great interest in the compact and midsize pickup truck market in a recent interview during the media's first drive of the 2011 Grand Cherokee.
“That’s a segment that I’m very curious about,” Manley said. “I know it’s had a rough time here in the U.S., but globally it still seems to be an important sector.”
As CEO, Manley has profit and loss responsibility for Jeep’s global portfolio, so he’s driven to make sure everything Jeep does can make money. As a result, he said he ‘s looking for every opportunity to expand the brand, as well as make sure it stays true to Jeep's heritage. But could that mean a pickup?
“I know there’s a lot of elasticity in the Jeep brand globally, so we’re not limiting our search for new-vehicle opportunities or new markets,” Manley said.
Interestingly, when discussing the future of Jeep, Manley was quick to go back to some recent pickup truck concept vehicles, but without calling any of them by name. They’ve kept coming in a steady cadence during the past decade.
An apparently production-ready Jeep Scrambler made a brief appearance at the 2003 NADA convention in San Francisco before it was suddenly pulled after only a few hours. Nothing was heard from about that truck again. In 2005, Jeep showed the well-received Gladiator Concept. In 2007, there was the Jeep JT and in 2008, the J8 Sarge. Most recently, we drove the awesome Jeep Nukizer 715 in Moab, Utah, earlier this year at Easter Jeep Safari.
Manley’s background is deep with international sales and marketing experience, so he’s very familiar with Europe, Asia, and China, where small trucks are big business. He was originally brought on during the DaimlerChrysler days to work with international sales and distribution.
Before this current job as Jeep’s CEO, Manley was in charge of sales and global product planning operations.
Although no information or confirmation was given about future products, we were encouraged to hear that there might be some playful thought being given to expanding the Jeep brand in a pickup truck direction.
It wouldn’t surprise us if a futuristic-looking Kaiser pickup truck appeared at one of the big auto shows by next year, based on the overwhelmingly positive response the Nukizer 715 received in Moab. We can only hope.