Next-gen Jeep Wrangler to go aluminum?

The next Wrangler might weigh considerably less thanks to the use of aluminum body panels.

A new report finds the next Jeep Wrangler might adopt aluminum body panels in order to shed a significant amount of weight.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Fiat-Chrysler Investor Day press conference, company CEO Sergio Marchionne hinted Ram will not follow Ford into the world of aluminum pickup trucks but he admitted the lightweight material would be well-suited to the Wrangler. Fitting the Wrangler with aluminum body panels would enable engineers to retain the current model's bulky solid axles while still complying with strict emissions regulations that will come into effect over the coming years.

An earlier report indicates Jeep engineers will find other ways to shed pounds such as replacing the full-size spare with a smaller space-saver unit likely located under the vehicle.

The fold-down windshield that has characterized the Wrangler for decades will likely be scrapped in order to make the off-roader both safer and simpler to build. Rumors claim convenience-minded buyers will be able to order the Wrangler with a power-retractable soft top at an extra cost, and the upcoming model will boast a more comfortable ride thanks to a thoroughly revised frame.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley previously explained redesigning the Wrangler is a tedious process.

"We're already in an environment where it's a challenge to produce a vehicle in that way, and it's going to get harder," said Manley in an interview late last year. "What I can tell you is that the vehicle is absolutely fundamental to our DNA, and it's going to become progressively harder to make sure that the vehicle meets all of the standards that are required for it."

The fourth-generation Jeep Wrangler is not expected to debut until 2017 at the very earliest.

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