5 Minutes With Jeep Designer Mark Allen

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It's no secret that Jeep is soon jumping into the fast-changing mid-size pickup truck segment. To find out more, we sat down with the brand's head designer Mark Allen during the 51st version of the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.

Allen has almost single-handedly brought major success and recognition to what used to be a small off-roading brand. You can't say that about Jeep any more. March sales reports indicate that Jeep could sell 1,000,000 units in the U.S. by year end. That number totals sales for the Renegade, Compass, Patriot, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler SUVs.

Jeep is ready to get back into the pickup truck game after a long absence and an even richer history with an all-new mid-size pickup. We were able to find out more when Allen and his team of designers took time out from the safari to answer questions about the new Jeep pickup. But not to worry, we talked about the safari as well — more on that later.

Why Return to Pickups and What About Sibling Rivalry?

When asked what makes Jeep think it can reenter the pickup segment, Allen noted that Jeep buyers, especially those he stays connected to by attending the Easter Jeep Safari every year, understand two things beyond basic off-roading: They know the purpose and value of pickups, and the torque diesel engines deliver. He was quick to note he was not guaranteeing that the coming 2019 Jeep pickup would have a diesel engine, but we're guessing that certainly would make potential Jeep pickup buyers happy.

We also asked about the relationship between Ram and Jeep — both part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — and how that plays out in behind-the-scenes discussions. Allen said the company sees Ram trucks as being all about the work and the tasks they can accomplish, having the right tool for the project at hand, he said. Jeep, on the other hand, is focused on adventure, boulder bashing and backcountry exploration.

Allen added that this new pickup should replicate what happened when Jeep came out with the four-door Wrangler just a little more than 10 years ago. At the time, he said, there were plenty of people who thought it couldn't be a real Jeep if it had four doors. But the four-door version brought Jeep a completely new audience: families. Allen sees the pickup truck doing the same thing for existing Jeep enthusiasts as well as people who will appreciate the capabilities of a Jeep with a good-sized cargo bed. He suggested there are plenty of families with a double-duty pickup truck in the driveway and a minivan in the garage. Giving those buyers a shot at finally getting a Jeep is what will lure half-ton fans into a Jeep pickup.

Ram Rampage concept

If you spend even a small amount of time in Moab, you'll see many four-door Jeeps with open rear cargo areas being used the way pickups are used: to haul gear and supplies. Because of the limited space, that cargo must be piled high behind the rear seats or stacked on top of a roof rack.

Clearly, if there was a longer-wheelbase Wrangler Unlimited with a 6.6-foot bed, life could be simpler for quite a few Jeep enthusiasts.

"Giving our current customers more of what they want has always been one of our guiding strategies, and this pickup will be no different," Allen said. "It won't be too long [before] you'll see quite a few Jeep families towing their modified Wranglers behind a Jeep pickup."

However, when we asked about whether the heavy-duty truck guys are likely to be interested in this new pickup, Allen was clear — this is not going to be a vehicle to lure those HD guys away from their work trucks. They already have a Ram HD choice.

Other Truckmakers' Strategies

Allen also discussed the paths other truckmakers have taken.

He noted that he can see why Honda changed some of the Ridgeline's exterior design cues for the new model, adding that he likes that it now looks more like a traditional pickup without losing its core non-pickup buyers. It's no surprise that this intrigues Allen; the new Jeep pickup has a similar challenge. It must provide something less conventional than a 4x4 SUV and still appeal to Jeep's core buyers.

In terms of Nissan, Allen addressed the challenges of offering something for everyone in all the standard versions with two different but also similar pickup trucks in the light-duty Titan and stronger Titan XD. He declined to answer questions about a stronger, better-towing Jeep option package, but that wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe a smart four-corner airbag suspension for flexibility in 4-Low and rigidity when in Tow/Haul?

Jeep Pickup Spy CD

Allen acknowledged that the Ford F1-50 Raptor is an impressive player in the off-road arena, essentially because of how "all-in" Ford allowed its engineers to go.

"My impression was, at the time, that Ford was an old man's pickup, so to offer that kind of package and personality to a new half-ton was quite smart," he said.

What About Special-Edition Jeep Pickups?

Naturally, that led us to wonder if this new Jeep pickup — or maybe some special editions — will give Jeep a wider appeal.

Certainly, it got us thinking about all kinds of special "flavors" a Jeep pickup could leverage, either reinforcing the existing Jeep personality (a Rubicon model perhaps?) or taking Jeep in a whole new direction with a Mojave Desert edition to better compete with the likes of a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 or Raptor on a Baja 1000 pre-run. And what about a Jeep pickup Hellcat? If our universe can accommodate a 707-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk with a lowered suspension, 20-inch wheels and a race-launch setting, a Super Sport Jeep pickup can exist. But we might be getting ahead of ourselves.

Based on what Allen told us, it looks like we can expect to see quite a bit of the new Jeep Wrangler in the coming pickup, both of which will be built at the soon-to-be-refurbished plant in Toledo, Ohio. We'll get a chance to see the all-new Wrangler later this year, then the pickup prototypes likely by the summer of 2018. This should certainly shake things up a bit.

About the 2017 Easter Jeep Safari

Every year Allen and his team reveal a new set of "concept" vehicles to the Jeep faithful at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. If there is a more Jeep-centric, Jeep-friendly place on Earth, we don't know about it. Everywhere you look in Moab someone is driving a Jeep, towing a Jeep, working on a Jeep or talking about Jeeps in a parking lot. This place is all about Jeeps, especially around Easter, mainly because the hundreds of nearby spectacular 4x4 trails make it a mecca for Jeep and 4x4 enthusiasts.

Allen always put quotation marks around the word "concept" because normal car designers make concept vehicles that look good in a studio or on an auto show stage or turntable. They are prototypes that will never put rubber to the road; they're typically shuttled from the studio to a transport truck to auto show floors. That's not the case with the safari concepts.

Allen takes great pride in the fact that the project vehicles for this annual event are drive-ready when they're shipped to Moab and other remote trail locations for Jeep events. Unlike 2016, there were no pickups at the safari — but that doesn't mean there weren't small cues in these concepts that might make their way to a pickup.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams; manufacturer images

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2017 Jeep Concept - Group 002 II

2017 Jeep EJS - Trail 007 II



The Ram Looks like a chevy Cheyenne


Mark Williams - - -

Good interview with Mark Allen.

I look froward to the new Jeep pickup: it would combine (for me) two lovable vehicles in one shot: a pickup (of which I will soon have 3), and a Jeep, --- unfortunately only 1 :(


'He suggested there are plenty of families with a double-duty pickup truck in the driveway and a minivan in the garage. Giving those buyers a shot at finally getting a Jeep is what will lure half-ton fans into a Jeep pickup.'

Wishful thinking - Jeep is overlooking a simple fact, Jeep has been beaten badly by foreign: a) Toyota Rav, b) Toyota Highlander, c) Nissan Rogue, d) Nissan Murano, & D) Honda CRV.

None of those foreign marketing strategies are showing their products in remote barren arid areas rather it is urban with plenty of females and children smiling - not a guy with a cap, shades and fatigues - something does not ad up with Jeep.

@David Robertson- I don't understand how Jeep is being "beaten" by anyone. They build the wrangler as fast as they can, raise the prices every year (with only one minor change) and they still sell them with spectacular margins. They retain used resale value better than anything else from FCA.

Latest on the Jeep pickup is late 2019. I'll say it's not going to happen and will be put off again. You can take that to the bank!

This is the umpteenth chapter of the same bleeping story.

It starts to ring kind of hollow after a while.
Posted by: papajim | Apr 1, 2017 9:59:22 AM

I agree with what papajim said earlier. I remember seeing this Jeep pickup at a 2005 Auto Show. Now I'm supposed to believe its coming in 2019? Yeah, right. If it ever comes in 2019 and it won't, it will be ugly as sin and too little, too late. The midsized truck market will be more saturated by then, with the more credible Ranger arriving. The Jeep will just be another lame attempt to steal sales from its own brands Jeep Wrangler and Ram and Ford and GM.

This may be my next truck.

And yes it's really me.

Don't want no stinking diesel, hopefully they will have a new 3.0 gas engine that provides HP and gas mileage, maybe direct injection with a turbo...even though a supercharger will provide better low in torque

Mr. Knowitall

Families as suggested by Mark Allen - would prefer Jeep over foreign?

Is this a reality or pie in the sky?
Is Jeep a family vehicle?.... you guess.
Do you take your children to school on Jeep? or foreign?

@papajim--This will be my last truck.

This is me.

But I won't be driving by the time it comes out.

6' 5" bed might be enough. We work our old farm truck hard and it does go offroad. I won't buy something with four doors, however, as I want a smaller truck with a usable bed.

Great. Another unreliable pick up from Fiat Crapsler Automobiles.

I'll believe it when I see it. Jeep is notorious for concept trucks and talking about it for what has been now close to two decades. Also why is the Rampage concept on this page? I thought that was suppose to be a Dakota replacement that never happened.

All the pathectic excuses. If you really wanted a Jeep truck you would have one. Used or new i know where to get one and i dont want one. lol

Kia or Hyundai should come out with a pickup for the North American market that has some old GI Jeep styling cues.

They can design it from scratch with the latest drivetrain tech, and popular electronics. Offer it for a competitive price and have it on the market before FCA makes another round of these market teasers that are all talk no action.

Or even Toyota. They could recycle their FJ and make it into a truck that sells 100k units annually and has killer re-sale value.

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