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NAIAS 2005: Jeep Gladiator Concept Pickup
By: Michael LevinePosted: 01-09-05 12:52 PT
© 2005 PickupTruck.com

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Jeep hasn't offered a pickup for sale to consumers in North America since the 1986 Jeep Commanche. But just a few years ago, Jeep began tentatively testing the waters to see if it should once again offer a pickup as part of its lineup.

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 when Automotive News began asking questions about the truck. Nothing was heard from about that truck again.

Well, if the Jeep Scrambler was Jeep sticking its toes in to test the waters, the Gladiator concept might well be Jeep jumping in up to their waist after speaking with DaimlerChrysler executives.

PUTC spoke with Eric Ridenour, executive vice president of product development at DaimlerChrysler, about both the Scrambler and Gladiator.

Ridenour said, "The [Scrambler] wasn't the right vehicle for us. We were testing to see if its dimensions and proportions were right but it didn't work out. The [Gladiator] is right and we're happy to show it. Its short overhangs are part of the brand."

Jeep is sending a strong message that its looking to consumers to decide whether the Gladiator is the pickup Jeep will return to the market with. As it continues trying to perfect the business case for this truck, consumer sentiment will be a critical factor to determining whether it makes sense.

"Right now, this is a market study. No production decision has been made, but there's a lot of viability to do this [truck]," added Ridenour.

Aiding production viability - the Gladiator is powered by the same 2.8-liter turbo diesel engine that's available as an option in the Jeep Liberty SUV. It offers 163 horsepower and 295 lb-feet of torque.

In visual perception, the exterior and interior design cues look production-intent, such as the door handles and dash. Nothing too far-out conceptually here.

The most unique aspect of the Gladiator is its bed. With midgate-like access through the cab, the box can be lengthened from 5' 8" to 6' 8" and even further, to 8', when the tailgate is lowered.

"[The bed] is a great, novel concept. We're gauging consumer reaction to this feature," said Ridenour.

Also unique is the Gladiator's retractable canvas roof that provides easy access to the great outdoors.

When asked about why Jeep configured the Gladiator as an extended-cab instead of a crew, Ridenour said, "The extended cab is the market here. Jeep buyers like to have high capacity and put their motorcycles in the bed. Crew cabs are too short."

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