JPFreek – As Chief Designer for the Jeep brand, how important has it been for you to utilize feedback from Jeep owners & enthusiasts when planning future projects, including the Overland JK?
MA – All of the Mopar Underground Jeeps I have built have been a direct result of feedback from Jeep enthusiasts. For example, the Jeep JT concept ( EJS ’07) was the answer for “Hey Mark, is Jeep ever gonna do a pickup?” The Sarge ( EJS ’08) was in response to “What’s a J8 ? ” The Lower 40 ( EJS ’09) showing the way forward in ultimate rock crawling.
I get all my ideas for Jeep product from Jeep enthusiasts. I take the role of Chief Designer for this brand very seriously, and I feel a heavy responsibility to give voice to the enthusiast in every manner possible. That’s what drives me to ensure that the concepts we bring to Moab are fully operational vehicles not to be babied and parked in a parking lot. We build them to be “wheeled hard” right along side the people who inspire them.
JPFreek – The buzz surrounding the Jeep brand’s announcement to offer the J8 MILSPEC to consumers through American Expedition Vehicles and its network of authorized dealers, has been phenomenal! Based on the success of this, do you foresee plans by the Jeep brand to consider offering other “special” vehicle platforms to consumers?
MA – The J8 MILSPEC offered through American Expedition Vehicles is a direct result of being driven by the enthusiast. This program is a very non-traditional approach, but was necessary to allow quick access to the U.S consumer of what many consider the ultimate Jeep. Simple, rugged, tough as nails with military grade hardware. I cannot comment on what plans we have for the future.
JPFreek – If you could take the Overland JK or J8 MILSPEC for a weeklong overland excursion anywhere in the world, where would you go?
MA – North Pole. Although I am certain it is underwhelming, how many people have you met that have been there? No bugs , snakes, or humidity. Polar bears yes, big nasty spiders , no.
JPFreek – On a more serious note, Chrysler recently announced plans for bankruptcy protection, an alliance with Fiat, and closures of approximately 20% of its dealership networks throughout the country. How has this affected the mindset of its various design teams, and how do you foresee these streamlining efforts pushing the Jeep brand forward long-term?
MA – You need to remember that the design clock operates about 3 to 5 years into the future, so we are busy working on ’14 & ’15 model years. In addition, these vehicles need to carry on into ’18 & ’19, so we are projecting well beyond what is currently going on in the market right now. Regardless of what is going on in the automotive sector or who owns what, the Jeep brand will continue to build as the ultimate off-road machine.
JPFreek – Okay, back to the fun stuff. Easter Jeep Safari continues to be THE event of the year for Mopar & the Jeep brand to show off new vehicles and exciting new projects. Have you already begun plans for future EJS events, and can we coax you into spilling the beans on anything new you guys have planned in the short and long-term?
MA – Yes, I agree that EJS is a great event to show off exciting new concepts for the Jeep brand. For Mopar Underground we have two main events to build toward: SEMA and EJS. I try to keep the Jeep debuts at EJS only because it is a driving event as opposed to SEMA where it is static. Not much fun having a Jeep parked inside if you ask me.
What am I building for next year? Well, although I’m not going to tell you ( how would that be fun? ), I am currently planning four new projects to show, all of them are cool and no, none are based on a FIAT platform.
* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.