Jeep is bringing back the Gladiator – in name and spirit.
But not, alas, in price.
The resurrected Jeep pick-up (four doors this time rather than two – and a short rather than full-sized bed, as the original had) will be built off the existing Wrangler four-door and like its donor – and its ancestor – will be thoroughly Jeep. Meaning thoroughly capable. It will not be a light-duty “crossover” based on a front-wheel-drive passenger car. It will have ultra-rugged underpinnings and real four-wheel-drive, with a two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing.
If you can afford it.
Jeep announced the other day that the new Gladiator will start at $37,040. A Rubicon will sticker for ten grand more and – Jeep says – a “fully loaded” Gladiator Rubicon will crest $60,000.
It takes the breath away.
The original 1962 Gladiator stickered for just over $1,900 – equivalent, in today’s Weimarian-inflated dollars to just over $16,000 if the same vehicle were offered for sale today.
The reason the new Gladiator costs what it does is because Jeep needs to make money on the thing – because of all the money Jeep’s parent company, FiatChrysler, isn’t making selling cars.
And not just Jeep, either.
It is no longer profitable to sell cars in general – because people in general aren’t buying them. And they aren’t buying cars anymore because most of them have been Uncle-ized into functional uselessness by federal fatwas, most especially those demanding 30-plus MPGs at the pump and successful passing of myriad crash tests, to demonstrate how saaaaaaaaaaaaaafe they are.
Very few of them bought trucks – as the original Gladiator was – and no one bought “SUVs” or “crossovers” because such things didn’t exist.
There were a few 4x4s, models like the Jeep Willys and CJ, the International Scout, Toyota Land Cruiser and the original Ford Bronco – but these were as mass market then as an S-Class Mercedes is today. You saw one every now and then – usually in the woods, out in a field.
They were not seen commuting.
This was because they were 4x4s. Rough, rugged things designed to deal with conditions that would break cars. They were also very unlike cars, which even back then tended to have carpet and other luxuries usually lacking in a 4×4 – which had exposed metal floorpans, easier to hose out the insides.
This was sensible, horses-for-courses policy. Many families had a car and a 4×4, to use for weekend forays, Boy Scout hauling and such.
Along came Uncle.
He insisted American cars achieve close to 30 MPG – rising, ever since – and meet M1 Abrams standards of impact-absorbing capacity. This political fatwa’ing created an engineering dilemma, since M1 Abrams tanks tend to be heavy and thus not capable of going 30 miles on a gallon of gasoline.
Sedans seat five now, rather than six (or nine, as old wagons were able to) and have tiny (by historical standards) trunks.
Almost all of them are built on front-wheel-drive layouts and have four or six-cylinder engines. Almost none have V8s – or are built on a rear-drive layout – which renders them fine for commuting but useless for pulling a heavy trailer.
Americans gradually began to turn away from cars as the federal fatwa’ing caused them to be downsized and today cars are on the precipice of extinction in favor of what are styled crossovers and SUVs, which have the room (and capability) which cars used to offer but no longer do.
Even once-best-selling cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are slipping on the proverbial banana peel – because they are just too small – and not very useful – which they are because of Uncle’s fatwas.
Let’s look at some stats.
In 1970, a Camry-equivalent – a family sedan of that era – was the Chevy Chevelle/Malibu sedan. It was 201.1 inches long and could accommodate six people in its two rows of three-across seating. If featured body-on-frame construction, which made pulling a 5,000-plus pound trailer viable – and offered V8s all the way up to 454 cubic inches.
The trunk was enormous, too.
The 2019 Camry is a much smaller car, about a foot shorter overall and only seats five. It is built on a unibody/front-wheel-drive layout, which limits what it can pull. Its available V6 is very powerful – more powerful than the Chevy’s big-block V8 – but the car is much less capable.
And it is typical of today’s cars.
They are thus less practical and so harder to sell – and as a result, there is less money to be made selling them. The profit margin on the sale of a typical new car is so little – about 3 percent, net – it’s hardly worth selling them. Which is why GM and Ford have decided to stop selling them almost entirely.
Toyota and Honda and the rest may follow, too.
Back to Jeep.
Jeep – and Ram trucks, which sells similar vehicles; i.e., not puny passenger cars – is the bread and butter of FiatChrysler, just as the F-150 and Expedition are where Ford makes money and the Chevy Tahoe and derivatives where GM makes its money.
Double digit profit margins.
The money made on the sale of these vehicles makes up for the money passenger cars aren’t making.
Which brings us back to Gladiator – and not just Gladiator. Note that the Wrangler it’s based on isn’t a cheap date, either. It’s almost $30,000 to start. Try and by a new 1500 truck with a V8 and 4WD for less than that.
So, the deal is, we’re being mulcted indirectly by Uncle – via Jeep, et al – to make up the compliance costs imposed on cars by Uncle. The car industry’s lifeblood is the truck/SUV, so they sink their fangs deep and drink hearty.
It is why there is no longer such a thing as a $16,000 Gladiator – or even a $26,000 one.
The money has to be made up somewhere.
Here’s looking at you, kid.
. . .
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