As spring approaches, serious SUV fans get ready to hit the trails. And Jeep is offering up some ways to have a bit more fun and adventure with seven new concepts for the 49th Annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah.
Unlike the concept vehicles you’ll typically see at an auto show, these are real “runners,” largely based on existing Jeep products and using an array of parts and accessories already available in the Mopar parts catalog. Not surprisingly, one goal is to get loyal Jeep owners to customize their vehicles. But the Safari concepts also offer a hint of special editions to come. And one Wrangler prototype underscores Jeep’s serious interest in adding a pickup to its line-up.
“Jeep is the most accessorized vehicle” on the road, suggested Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, during a preview of the Easter Safari concepts. Mopar sold 1.2 million parts and accessories for the Jeep brand last year, and Gorlier noted that 98% of Wranglers on the road use at least one of those modifications.
Demand is so strong that Mopar is setting up a special custom shop near the Port of Baltimore to customize the new Jeep Renegades as they arrive in the U.S. from their assembly plant in Italy. One example of what buyers could come up with will join this year’s Moab trail run.
The Jeep Renegade Desert Hawk features a number of off-road upgrades, including rock rails, a skid plate kit, trailer hitch and roof rack. But one of the more visually intriguing touches is a mat hood that features a topographical map of the Moab trails. Mopar can customize similar decals for other locations, according to Gorlier.
(BMW debuts first plug-in hybrid SUV. Click Here to check out the BMW X5 xDrive40e.)
One of the Safari concepts likely to generate extensive buzz is the Jeep Wrangler Red Rock Responder. “It’s kind of like a Swiss Army knife,” suggested designer Mark Trostle, with a variety of nooks and crannies for storage, 37-inch wheels good for serious rock crawling – and a wheelbase stretched 15 inches to accommodate a pickup-style bed.
“I am absolutely on the record (as) a huge fan of a pickup truck in the Jeep brand,” explained Jeep President and CEO Michael Manley. It would have to wait until an all-new version of the Wrangler goes into production. But that wouldn’t be a long wait, the next model scheduled to debut sometime in 2017. A pickup has yet to be approved but insiders say there is strong support within Jeep and parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
(Click Here for more on a Jeep pickup – as well as a possible Jeep plug-in hybrid.)
The other Easter Jeep Safari Concepts include:
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Overlander. Designed for long treks by those who want the comfort of an RV with the flexibility of an SUV, it features a pop-up tent on its roof;
- Jeep Chief. A nod to the West Coast surfer lifestyle, this hybrid model pays homage to the original Jeep Cherokee;
- Jeep Wrangler Africa. This conversion is billed as “the ultimate Wrangler for back-country and overland expeditions;”
- Jeep Staff Car. A trip back in time, this minimalist, open-air Wrangler model takes a retro turn designed as a salute to the military models that helped make Jeep a familiar sight; and
- Jeep Canyon Trail. Based on the Cherokee Trail Hawk model, this concept is raised and armored to handle some of the most extreme trail conditions a serious off-roader might experience.
(Jeep gaining big momentum in Europe. Click Here for the story.)