- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

Blue Sky Concept: Jeep Treo from DaimlerChrysler”

Think “Blue Sky,” think green, think concept, think futuristic, think Japanese? Open and creative thinking is the focus of DaimlerChrysler’s annual Blue Sky design exercise, wherein staff automotive stylists and designers are given free rein to express new ideas employing existing and yet-to-be developed technology in new-vehicle ideology.

Conceptual thinking is put to paper (as well as computer) in developing potential future products. Project Blue Sky always yields a plethora of vehicle possibilities — the star of the latest competition was the Jeep Trio. The name has since been changed to “TREO” (still pronounced Trio) because some obscure requirement of the most recent Tokyo Motor Show, where the Jeep concept was introduced to the world.

Treo goes beyond tradition in defining Jeep, blending future technology and innovative design in an activity vehicle aimed at appealing to a youthful market, and geared to being environmentally friendly. Think of Treo as a Jeep 10 years in the future. It is intended to be adaptable to international markets, with the capability of employing fuel cell or other advanced alternative powertrains with drive-by-wire technology on a totally new platform.

If produced, Treo will be a clean, efficient, compact vehicle, available at an affordable price. It will offer all-wheel drive and will accommodate three passengers (or two plus their gear). Seating is for two up front, and one in the rear. The concept show vehicle is based on electric drive with dual electric motors, creating zero emissions.

The overall design incorporates classic Jeep cues, including the traditional seven-slot grille, whose theme is carried throughout the vehicle with unprecedented continuity — the slot appears in the wheels, seats and rear fascia.

Front and rear overhangs are virtually nonexistent, with exposed tow-hooks and open, removable fenders allowing for increased travel of the oversized wheels and tires with military-style tread.

The body forms a basic teardrop shape, tapering from front to rear with two high-mounted spar wings that house the taillamps and serve as mounts for twin high-tech Jeep Rubicon two-wheel mountain bikes.Inside, the grille slots are transparent because there is no engine up front and a single sculpted module contains the steering wheel, column, pedals, speedometer and other instruments. The module slides through a dash slot for instant adaptation to either right or left-hand drive application — one could even drive from the center.

The radio, GPS navigation system and climate controls with touch-screen are housed in a second removable module. Seats are constructed of a lightweight, see-through material stretched over a strong carbon-fiber frame, with the rear units folding flat.

In preliminary specifications, the Jeep Treo would feature a wheelbase of 96.4 inches, measure 127.4 inches in overall length, stand 62.4 inches high and reach 66.1 inches from side to side. Both the front and rear track are 59 inches wide, and the ground clearance is 7.8 inches.

The Treo, which tips the scales at an estimated 1,800 pounds, was produced for DaimlerChrysler by Metalcrafters, Inc., located in Fountain Valley, Calif. As for actual production plans, nothing is yet official, but the Blue Sky is the limit.

Will the Treo be Rubicon capable? Probably not. Is the Rubicon issue important to DaimlerChrysler?

Perhaps, perhaps not.

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