DaimlerChrysler Corp. and its suppliers are making the Jeep Wrangler's composite hardtop a little easier to handle.
The revamped 2007 Wrangler coming on the market later this year will have a three-piece sheet molding compound hardtop in place of the 70-pound, one-piece unit for the current model.
The new design divides the roof into two side-by-side pieces over the driver's seat and front passenger seat with a separate part covering the rear of the Wrangler.
Drivers easily can remove the separate parts over the front seats and store them on board for replacement in case of a change in the weather. The back section can remain in place or be removed separately.
The weight and shape of the current SMC hardtop can make it complicated to remove and store when it is not in use. Take it off on a sunny morning, and passengers could be soaked during an unexpected rainstorm when they are miles from the roof.
Making the switch will allow drivers an easy option between full coverage and the open air, said Michael Berube, senior manager for Jeep marketing, during a Jan. 9 interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
``Whatever thing people loved about the Wrangler in the past, we wanted to improve,'' he said.
Molder Meridian Automotive Systems Inc. is working with Auburn Hills, Mich.-based DaimlerChrysler on the switch.
The molded-in-color SMC will weigh in at less than 20 pounds per piece, said Tyler Hardy, engineering director for exterior, structural and under-the-hood composites for Dearborn, Mich.-based Meridian.
The upgraded Wrangler will have improved acoustics, Berube said. Its plastics overhaul includes blow molded step assists. ``Every single thing was made substantially better,'' Berube said.