FCA Goes All-In On Jeep And Ram Brands On Cheap Gas Bet

Alex Kierstein

It's no surprise that as SUV and truck sales remain strong in the wake of unusually cheap gas, Jeep and Ram sales are taking off. What is a surprise is that FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks that cheap gas will be a "permanent condition," and feels strongly enough about it to change up North American manufacturing plans.

Jeep appears to be the biggest beneficiary of the product realignment. In addition to increasing the sales estimates for the brand worldwide upwards to 2 million units a year by 2018, the brand will get a flood of investment for new product and powertrains. Consider the Wrangler Pickup to be part of the salvo, as well as the Grand Wagoneer three-row announced in 2014 as part of the original five-year plan.

The Wrangler four-door will get at least two new powertrains, a diesel and mild hybrid version, in its next generation. That mild hybrid powertrain may utilize a 48-volt electrical system like the one that's being developed by Delphi and Bosch – which the suppliers think will be worth a 10 to 15 percent fuel economy gain at a minimum. Down the road, in the 2020s, the Wrangler could adopt a full hybrid system. The diesel powertrain is planned for 2019 or 2020.