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Jeep ute, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs to be funded by $US1b investment

Jeep will be investing $US1b into its plants in Michigan and Ohio.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has announced it will invest $US1b ($A1.4b) into its US-based manufacturing facilities, to accommodate Jeep's recently-announced, re-born Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, as well as a long-suspected pick-up from the four-wheel drive brand.

The investment will also help to cover the withdrawal of the Ram large truck from its manufacturing plant in Mexico, which is suspected to be related to threats from US President-elect Donald Trump and a proposed 35 per cent tariff on Mexican-built cars. 

The investment will swell capacity at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan, where not only the Dodge Ram will be located, but the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs will also be built.

Funds will also go to the Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, the site of construction for the yet-to-be-named ute, which like the Wagoneer, has not been ruled out for Australia.

An official announcement from FCA Australia said the company was still considering all three models for local showrooms, despite right-hand drive availability being unconfirmed only a matter of months ago.

"We are excited to confirm Jeep's commitment to expand its range with the Jeep Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer and a Jeep pickup," it read. "While it's early days, we are in the process of creating a business case to expand the Jeep line-up in Australia, to bring these great new products to Australian consumers."

FCA anticipates that both facilities will be completed by 2020, and when fully functional, will have generated 2000 jobs.

Expansion for the Jeep brand could mean extra models making their way Down Under in the future.

Concrete information on the announced models is scarce, but the resurrection of the Wagoneer name would see it back in the Jeep lexicon after the previous iteration, the SJ Wagoneer, was discontinued in 1991.

A one-tonne ute being brought to the Australian market could potentially be a big money-spinner for Jeep, as evidenced by recent VFACTS figures which revealed that the Toyota HiLux was the best-selling car in Australia in 2016, with the Ford Ranger fourth and the Mitsubishi Triton ninth.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested that the strategy of expansion for the Jeep brand could mean extra models making their way Down Under in the future.

"The expansion of our Jeep line-up has been, and continues to be, the key pillar of our strategy. Our commitment to internationalise the Jeep brand is unwavering, and with these last moves, we will finally have the capacity to successfully penetrate markets other than the US which have historically been denied product due to capacity constraints," he said. 

"In addition, these all new products will reach new consumers as well as those that have been part of the Jeep tradition."

Mr Marchionne also said that the recent investment into US manufacturing was part of a long-term plan for FCA, suggesting it was unrelated to Mr Trump moving into the White House.

"The conversion of our industrial footprint completes this stage of our transformation as we respond to the shift in consumer tastes to trucks and SUVs, and as we continue to reinforce the US as a global manufacturing hub for those vehicles at the heart of the SUV and truck market," he said.

"These moves, which have been under discussion with Dennis Williams and the rest of the UAW leadership for some time, expand our capacity in these key segments, enabling us to meet growing demand here in the US, but more importantly to increase exports of our mid-size and larger vehicles to international markets."

Would a Jeep pick-up in Australia be able to match sales figures with heavy-hitters like the HiLux, Ranger and Triton? Tell us what you think in the comments below.