Mike Manley, Jeep brand president and CEO and leader of Chrysler's international operations, is a great example of the diversity of Sergio Marchionne's executive team. A Brit and an engineer by education, he spent his early auto career on the retail side and was running a U.K. dealership when DaimlerChrysler hired him in 2000 and sent him to the States in 2003.

"Then, when we restructured," he says, "I was asked if I would like to work with the Jeep guys looking after the Jeep brand. Who would turn that job down? I love what Jeep stands for, the spirit of Jeep, the social side of Jeep, Jeep people, and Jeep vehicles.

TT: What is your philosophy for the brand?

MM: We wanted to make sure we were very true to what Jeep stands for, not just historically but its relevance in the marketplace, so we got with our engineers and designers and looked at what we could call Jeep DNA. What are the elements of a vehicle that make it truly a Jeep? Capability is obviously one of the first, but we also have a tradition in styling, and we want to make sure it is a true Jeep from a functionality and versatility perspective. And then, going forward, we have to provide not just the capability but also better on-road driving dynamics, better fuel economy, lower cost of ownership, and more reliability.

TT: Will some future Jeeps be based on the same (Alfa Romeo-based) architecture as the new Dodge Dart?

MM: The same platform, yes. One big thing that has happened in recent years is being able to use the flexibility of platforms to be able to create trail-rated versions. It has to be raised, with 4x4 technology, and we'll have to change numerous things to make it a Jeep. That's why that DNA map is very important to us, so we don't lose or damage what Jeep stands for.

TT: Meeting Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandates will be an enormous challenge, with a Jeep brand target and targets for individual vehicles. How will you get that done without losing Jeep capability, or affordability?

MM: There is not one silver bullet to get it done. Jeeps past have been known for their capabilities, but that's been facilitated with a lot of weight. With new technology and materials, we can remove a lot of weight while maintaining capability. We'll have different powertrains -- we're putting a diesel into the Grand Cherokee because of its fuel-economy benefits, but it also has the capability -- but full-vehicle efficiency will also play a major role. We will need to achieve a balance between maintaining capability and doing it cost-effectively, because the customers have to pay for it.


In every issue, Truck Trend conducts interviews with folks involved in designing, building, and equipping current and future trucks. Have any suggestions for interviews you'd like to see? E-mail us at trucktrend@sorc.com --Ed.