Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia is betting big on its incoming Jeep Gladiator ute to help turnaround its slowing sales when it touches down in local showrooms in the second quarter of next year.
New FCA Australia boss Kevin Flynn told journalists in New Zealand at a special preview drive event that the Gladiator would give the company "a real opportunity to really polarise people's thinking and get us really back in consideration – because it [the Gladiator] is so different, because it is so competent, because it is so Jeep".
"This vehicle is going to do a great job for us, both in terms of, obviously, another segment to compete in, but actually a bit of a reset for us in the market," he said.
"This vehicle is key with a number of other product activities we're going to do around it – and if you look at some of the timings of the things that we're planning to do, by the time this vehicle is coming into sale, then we're going to be in a lot fitter position, and therefore in a lot better position to maximise it."
To the end of November, Jeep Australia's sales have slid 25.1 per cent year-on-year to 5154 units, with its most popular model being the Grand Cherokee (2788 sales, -26.4%).
Jeep's much-anticipated five-seat dual-cab ute, touted as "the world's only convertible pick-up truck", is expected to be launched in Australia in the second quarter of 2020 and could rise to the top of the brand's sales charts given the popularity of its rivals including the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.
No Australian specs or pricing for the Gladiator were made available at the event.
Journalists at the event drove the US-spec Gladiator with 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine (209kW@6400rpm and 353Nm@4400rpm) and eight-speed automatic transmission – which we already drove in the US back in April 2019.
At this NZ event, CarsGuide drove a Gladiator Rubicon and a "Mopar-enhanced" Gladiator Rubicon.