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Gladiator rivals aren’t utes, says Jeep Australia boss

By Tim Robson, 06 Mar 2020 Car News

Jeep Gladiator

Gladiator pick-up not just a ute, insists the man tasked with fixing the Jeep brand in Australia

With the imminent arrival of Jeep’s Gladiator pick-up, the question many people are asking is if the big boxy Gladiator is a challenger for trucks like Ford’s Ranger Raptor or the Volkswagen Amarok 580 Ultimate – because starting at $75k or so sure puts the big Jeep into rarefied air.

However, the new head of Fiat Chrysler Australia, Kevin Flynn, believes the big rig is more than the sum of its competitors.

British-born Flynn is a 40-year veteran of the motoring industry, serving across brands as diverse as Lexus, Porsche and BMW, before moving over to FCA.

Faced with stiff winds in the Australian market around pricing and safety issues for both the Gladiator and its cousin, the Wrangler, Flynn is keen to make the distinction between the typical dual-cab ute so beloved of Australians and the larger Gladiator.

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“We're not calling it a ute,” he told WhichCar. “We're calling it a truck because it is a truck. It's lifestyle. It's allowing Jeep Life to be lived on another level.”

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Gladiator's built-in advantage

Flynn believes the difference between premium utes like the Raptor, the Amarok and the Gladiator lies in the fact that the Gladiator is purpose-built to excel off-road out of the box.

“Many manufacturers build utes, and then one of them in the range normally at the top end has got some modified suspensions and different wheels and has a level of capability,” he said. “Ours has that capability locked in from day one because that's what it is. So we're not adding a derivative of a range.”

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The Gladiator shares the same structure as the Wrangler in that its panels can be removed to create an entirely different look, and Flynn believes it’s this versatility that gives the Gladiator the edge.

“It gives all gives people all those flexibilities to throw your ATV, throw your kayaks, throw your dirt bikes into it,” he said. “It's just endless what you can do with it. So what if someone wants to put a concrete packer in it? That's what people choose to use it for, of course, will be their choice. And we're not going to define that.

“It is what it is and it's unique. There's nothing like it in the world.”

Flynn also acknowledges the brand has some fence-mending to do with its constituents.

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“My evaluation when I talked to dealers, talked to customers, and looked around is actually I would say 80 percent of the challenges we created for ourselves are in the after-sales arena and in a way that we have cared - or not so cared - for our customer base and so forth.

“And quite honestly, we needed a seismic shift in attitude and really understand that we need to be customer-centric.”

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Jeep Gladiator pricing

The Gladiator pick-up will land in Australia in May in Overland and Rubicon spec-levels priced at $75,450 and $76,450 respectively.

There will also be a limited run of 100 Launch Edition models based on the Rubicon-spec Gladiator and priced at $86,450.

All Australian-spec Gladiators will be powered by Jeep’s 3.6-litre petrol V6 Pentastar engine that makes a claimed 209kW of power and 347Nm of torque, which will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. No diesel variant is being offered.