The Willys2, Chrysler Jeep's first concept car to make a show debut outside the US, is likely to be the forerunner of a stripped-out, entry-level rival to "softroaders" like Toyota's RAV4 and Suzuki's Grand Vitara.
Taking centre stage on Chrysler's stand at style-conscious Tokyo, Willys2 (pictured) was described by the brand's British design vice president, Trevor Creed, as a "radical and funky concept". But he conceded a toned-down version could be in production "within three years at the minimum".
Mr Creed said the compact sports utility vehicle, finished in lurid metallic green, offered Chrysler the chance to find a "back to basics" spiritual successor to the original Willys Second World war horse.
He claimed Jeep's brand potential had not been fully exploited and a production version, probably using the Willys name, could slot in below the Wrangler.
While the high cabin waist line and low roof profile would be retained, high production costs are likely to eliminate the show car's carbon fibre body and aluminium sub frame.
But the novel detachable hardtop, incorporating a roof rack carrying spare wheel, luggage containers and auxiliary lights, has real world potential. The massive 22-inch wheels are also likely to be sacrificed to convention.
With constant four wheel drive, and a supercharged 160-horsepower, 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine the Willys2 would be priced below £15,000 in Britain.
Welcoming the possibility of a wider accessibility to the Jeep brand, Chrysler-Jeep UK director Simon Elliott said: "Priced competitively a model along the lines of the Willys2 would give people the opportunity to experience Jeeps for the first time.
"Money is precious and Chrysler builds concept cars for proper reasons, not just for show. We would welcome the extra volume. This year will be the first time that Chrysler has outsold Jeep in the UK. It would be fantastic news for our network and the brand."
(November 8, 2001)