The Jeep Wrangler has been an off-roaders dream thanks many things including its old-school solid axle setup. Now, it seems Chrysler could be axing that feature in an effort to drop weight and improve fuel economy. Could this move be going too far?
Why would Chrysler need to do this? They are facing intense pressure to make their vehicle’s more fuel efficient. Why? The upcoming CAFE requirements in 2016 and 2024. These requirements mandate that all vehicles get better fuel economy or the automaker will have to pay a fine. Automakers can use credits from electric vehicles to offset these fines. Chrysler doesn’t have an electric vehicle in its lineup.
With no EV vehicle credits and annual sales that are disproportionately high on vehicles with poor fuel economy, Chrysler is going to have to make their “popular” vehicles more fuel efficient. This means the Jeep Wrangler must become more fuel efficient.
The best way to make a more fuel efficient vehicle? Drop the weight. That is exactly the mindset behind dropping the solid axle on the Wrangler. By using an independent suspension system and more electronics, Chrysler can cut a significant amount of weight from the vehicle. This weight loss will correlate to an increase in fuel economy thereby avoiding a fine from the EPA for each vehicle sold.
On the flip side, Jeep could lose significant sales momentum with these changes. Purists and true off-road enthusiasts could seek out the old-school solid axle models of the past and ignore newer Wranglers with more electronics and an independent suspension.
Jeep brand boss Mike Manley told Automotive News that there is no guarantees that they will stick to the solid axle setup.
“We’re already in an environment where it’s a challenge to produce a vehicle in that way, and it’s going to get harder,” Manely told Automotive News. “What I can tell you is that the vehicle is absolutely fundamental to our DNA, and it’s going to become progressively harder to make sure that the vehicle meets all of the standards that are required for it.”
This puts Chrysler in a tough spot. New regulations could force their hand in making the Wrangler changes while the changes could turn off their customers.
What do you think? Is this a big deal for Jeep fans?
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