Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jeep Production May Return to China

As reported by Autoblog and Bloomberg, Jeep's parent company FIAT is working to reinstate production of the Jeep vehicle lineup in China.  Asian demand for Jeeps has steadily risen and American demand for the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler has had their factories working at maximum capacity, so a solution has to be found to allow Jeep to match supply with demand.

Fiat is in “very detailed conversations” with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., about making Jeeps in the world’s largest auto market, said Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia and President of the Jeep brand.  “The volume opportunity for us is very significant.  We’re reviewing the opportunities within existing capacity” as well as “should we be localizing the entire Jeep portfolio or some of the Jeep portfolio.

Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.  Manley referred to creating additional Jeep production sites rather than displacing output from North America to China.

***UPDATE 10/30/2012***
Facebook and countless other news sources have blown up the last few days with inaccurate reports resulting from misunderstanding of this announcement.  Most people, it seems, have mistaken this expansion of Jeep's production into China as a relocation of manufacturing from America to China.

FIAT/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has just issued the following statement on the Chrysler Blog in which he clarifies the announcement:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jeep Wrangler Picked as Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year has concluded its Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year assessment.  Over a hundred attendees including seventy athletes who participate in sports including cycling, triathlon, kayaking, softball, running and more evaluated 28 cars in seven categories.  Predictably, the Jeep Wrangler easily won the "Best Value Off-Road" category for 2013.

ALV is the only car-of-the-year program in the United States which combines the input of automotive journalists with elite and area athletes to determine which cars and trucks best meet the needs of buyers with active lifestyles.

“Authenticity is a very important aspect of this program,” said ALV co-founder, Nina Russin. “We vet the athletes to make sure their involvement in sports is significant enough to impact their car buying decisions. Team leaders are considered opinion leaders in the active community."

Extra-Long Jeep Wrangler JK Spied Ahead of SEMA

AutoWeek Magazine just published some spy photos and information on an upcoming SEMA show vehicle based on the Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited, purportedly named the "6-Pack Concept."

The Jeep is fitted with a full compliment of American Expedition Vehicles' accessories, including DualSport suspension, front and rear bumpers, tire carrier with auxiliary fuel tank, and Savegre wheels.  The interior is obviously not yet finished, but you can expect it to be perfect at the SEMA trade show.

AEV is obviously involved with this build, and their website's discussion forum is already buzzing with this exciting preview.  For a look at what kind of attention to detail to expect from the finished vehicle, look to AEV's JK Brute Double Cab pickup from last year.

The article by Roger Hart (reprinted below) contains more details on this year's unique "rock limo" concept Jeep:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

JeepSWAG Jeep JK DirtBagz Wheelwell Storage Bags

JeepSWAG's DirtBagz

Something every Jeep needs is some extra storage space.  JeepSWAG has come up with an awesome solution with their wheelwell storage bags that they have custom-fit for the Jeep Wrangler JK by DirtBagz.

I picked up a pair of these to make use of the "dead space" atop the wheelwells and beneath the roll bar.  They're shaped to perfectly contour to the curve of the wheelwells, and they're completely out of the way for loading coolers, sleeping bags, groceries, etc. yet easily accessible with the hardtop on or off.

Driver side DirtBag

Passenger side DirtBag
They really hold a lot of gear:

JeepSWAG demonstrates what fits into just one DirtBag
The DirtBagz are tall enough that they sit just barely over the body tub rail.  This allows you to still use a tonneau cover over the Jeep's rear cargo area:

DirtBagz are hidden under my Bestop Duster Cover.

The DirtBagz mount with heavy-duty tabs that bolt down to each of the body tub's side rails with two of the three hardtop mounting holes.  They are not completely waterproof, but they won't let any water inside during even the heaviest rain storms and they've done a great job of keeping dust out.  They are not theft-proof, but removal requires a Torx bit or a knife.

The gear you store within them is vulnerable to theft, so I don't recommend keeping tools, radios, or other valuable gear inside them.  I store spare batteries, a flashlight, a multitool, a couple firestarter bricks, a lighter, a folding shovel, a small fire extinguisher, a tow strap, two D-ring shackles, 100 feet of parachute cord, winching gloves, Warn winch controller, a tire plug kit, a roll of blue towels, a roll of toilet paper, a road flare, spare fuses, hose clamps, and duct tape in mine.  My emergency kit and tool kit are kept in separate bags so that they can be easily transported from the Jeep when needed.

I've been very pleased with my DirtBagz and highly recommend them for anyone looking to gain some more organized storage space in their Jeep.  They've handled quite a bit of weight within them and always stayed in place no matter how rough the terrain.  They don't interfere with any of the other gear I load into the back of the Jeep, and they work with any style hardtop, softtop, or duster cover.

Dominion OffRoad JK Hard Top Saver Kit

Hard Top Saver Kit
The removable hardtop on any 4x4 lives a rough life.  Bouncing down a trail and flexing over rocks transfers torsional loads from the suspension to the chassis, through the body, and into the hardtop.  With only a few small points of contact between the top and the body tub rail, the Wrangler JK's hardtop is known for developing cracks at these thin, highly-stressed points:

The notorious hardtop cracks found on higher-mileage Jeeps.

Since I knew my Jeep would be seeing a lot of offroad miles even in the winter months when the hardtop is installed, I decided some cheap insurance against damaging my hardtop was in order, before my hardtop developed its own cracks.  JeepSWAG a.k.a. Dominion OffRoad has developed a simple yet effective JK Hard Top Saver Kit seen above.

It is indeed a very simple product: 10-gauge 304 stainless steel plates cut and drilled to size, backed by high-quality 3M adhesive.  It installs between the torx bolt head to "sandwich" the hardtop and the body tub rail so that the load is spread out evenly to prevent the fiberglass from flexing and fatiguing.  When the hardtop is removed, the adhesive keeps the plates from magically disappearing over the summer months.

Hard Top Saver Kit, installed.

I absolutely could have made this kit myself, but the amount of time I would have spent doing so would have been a waste considering JeepSWAG only charges $30.  By the time I factor in material cost and the consumption of saw blades and drill bits, it made no sense but to simply purchase the kit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jeep Limousines

There have been countless goofy limousines built over the years, and Jeeps haven't been spared from this absurdity.  Admittedly, if I was ever to ride in a limo I would prefer a Jeep to the typical Town Car-based limo.

The Indy Jeep Limo

The First Class Limousines Hot Pink Jeep

S&S Limousines Jeep Rubicon

Tru Limousines Jeep Commander

The biggest problem I see with all these limousines is that they're never seen off-road.  That's where my buddy Ben Swain puts them all to shame with his company Slee Offroad's Sleemousine: a Lexus LX-450 Toyota FZJ-80 Land Cruiser limo that he's not afraid to take 4wheeling!

Slee Offroad's 80-series Land Cruiser limo
Having crawled over, under, and inside this unique limo myself at King of the Hammers, I can vouch for how incredibly cool it is.  The suspension lift, snorkel, and winch ensure that it has real offroading abilities, and the twin rooftop tents are for those occasions when sleeping accommodations are needed for 8 or more passengers.  Its only real shortcomings are its horrific breakover angle and its terribly underpowered inline-6 engine.

Sleemousine with one of its two rooftop tents deployed at KOH

YouTube has several clips of his Sleemousine surfing the Oceano Dunes SVRA at Pismo Beach on California's central coast:

Limos are expensive, heavy, and incredibly unwieldy off-road which is why you'll rarely (if ever) see a 4-wheel-drive limo taken off-road.  In spite of that, I'd love to see a showdown between Ben's Land Cruiser Limo and a Jeep Wrangler limo!

*** UPDATE 12/31/2013 ***

This sightseeing tourist Jeep is a sight to behold!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Jeep J12 Concept Continues to Make Waves in the Industry

Jeep J12 Concept Truck
I've mentioned several times how enthusiastically the Jeep world has responded to the idea of a modern-day Jeep pickup truck, and Jeep Underground's Mopar Jeep Concepts from this year's Moab Easter Jeep Safari continue to make waves in the press.  The most recent article, published by, focuses on the Jeep J12 Concept Truck.

As much as I love the Mighty FC Concept, this J12 "Old Man Truck" is a much more realistic and day-to-day liveable truck.  My favorite quote from this article:
The Jeep  J-12 Concept strikes a rare balance of classic and avant-garde styling that most concept vehicles are unable to achieve. Its trim and powertrain boast truly innovative thinking in automotive design and manufacturing.
Based on the JK Wrangler Unlimited, this modern-day Jeep Gladiator is but a stone's throw from being production-viable.  I doubt that Jeep will offer a pickup based on the JK Wrangler, but given the unbridled enthusiasm for a sub-Dodge/Ram pickup from the Jeep division, I expect to see a new Wrangler-based Jeep pickup on the upcoming (2015 model year?) replacement for the JK.  In the meantime, at least Jeep offers the JK-8 pickup conversion for the 2007-present Wrangler Unlimited.

Most potential Jeep pickup customers, however, would rather own one of these, ready to go right off the dealer's lot:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jeep Wrangler versus Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen

$40,000 American versus $111,000 German
With its legendary offroad abilities, the Jeep Wrangler is rarely considered the underdog in any given 4x4 competition.  However, Car and Driver Magazine's October 2012 issue has a series of interesting comparison tests in which they pit a variety of low-priced underdogs against vehicles that would be its direct competitor if not for the huge price discrepancy.  In this particular comparison, they matched a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon against the Mercedes-Benz G550 Geländewagen:

War Bonds: Two old battle-axes fight for domination of the reformed-military-vehicle market.

Both vehicles have humble beginnings as military vehicles, and both have evolved considerably from their rough-and-tumble roots.  What do you get from the G-wagen for 2.8 times the price of the Wrangler?  All the typical Mercedes luxuries, the expected luxury cachet, and another 100 horsepower.  But if that's what matters to you, you're reading the wrong blog.

Cut and Fold Paper Jeep Wrangler

Here's a fun one for the kids - or for the young at heart!  This cut-and-fold paper model Jeep Wrangler is a quick little project that can help get you through a boring day.

Click the image for a high-resolution version that you can print, cut out, and fold into shape with some clear tape.