And will a second pickup truck model join it?
Despite all outward appearances, the Jeep Gladiator is significantly more than just a Wrangler with a bed - in fact, the two vehicles ride on separate platforms. Even though the Gladiator and Wrangler are very different vehicles, there are bound to be some customers that switch from the truck to the pickup. Speaking to Automotive News, Jeep CEO Mike Manley said, "We looked and tried to do as much work as possible to see if we felt that there would be large percentages of substitution between the two vehicles. In our plans, we’re expecting somewhere in the order of 10 to 15 percent."
10 to 15 percent is a significant proportion, especially considering how well the Wrangler performed in 2018. With over 250,000 units sold on North America, the Wrangler managed to outsell 25 entire brands all on its own. If the Gladiator does cannibalize 15 percent of Wrangler sales, Jeep could see as many as 37,500 fewer customers for the Wrangler in 2019. Given the overwhelmingly positive reception to the Gladiator, we think Jeep's predictions may be a bit conservative.
If anything, Jeep dealers may have trouble even keeping the Gladiator in stock. "As I think about combined volume going forward, that really gives some illustration of some people moving from Wrangler to Gladiator. In terms of where volumes can go, I have no doubt that given the reception we’ve seen on Gladiator, that the production we have this year will be quickly taken up by our dealers, and hopefully, we’ll see them take it up equally fast when it arrives," said Manley.
There is clearly a demand for a smaller pickup truck to sit below the Ram 1500 in FCA's lineup. An analyst asked Manley whether the Ram brand could revive the mid-size Dakota, a truck many people have demanding FCA bring back in some capacity. Manley didn't exactly reject this suggestion, saying, "Where we sit today, the only vehicle missing in our portfolio is a metric-ton pickup, which is a midsize pickup in the US. I am working hard with the team to solve that. I haven’t solved that yet. But if that gets solved, it will give us the opportunity to bring a midsize truck in the marketplace."
Even though the Gladiator is technically a mid-size pickup, it is more a lifestyle vehicle. A Ram Dakota would be a good addition for people who need a work truck or don't care as much about off-road performance.