Jeep used to be the No.1 SUV brand in the world, but that was way back in 1999 when sales topped 554,446 vehicles in the United States alone. Then came the GFC and Chrysler’s free fall into bankruptcy in 2009, and many were convinced that the automotive group was terminal.
You’d never know it today though; with Jeep going gangbusters on a global scale and with more upscale cachet for the brand than it’s ever previously enjoyed.
Architect of this sensational comeback is Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marcionne, and just for the record, it’s not the first time he’s performed such miracles. He also happens to be the boss of Fiat S.p.A, the Italian carmaker that was also in the doldrums until he transformed it into one of the fastest growing car companies in the world, and in exactly the same timeframe – that’s two years after taking the helm.
The first order of business for Marcionne and the Jeep CEO, Englishman Michael Manley was to get the vehicles right. They started with the iconic Wrangler and gave it a fresh new interior and then dropped in the svelte V-6 Pentastar for the 2012 model year.
It worked. The changes resonated with the public who now saw the brand as decidedly upscale and that’s been reflected in Wrangler sales and the buyer profile. Believe it or not, the average household income of the average two-door Wrangler buyer is US$95,000, which climbs to US$110,000 for the four-door Unlimited variant.
Then came the Grand Cherokee and the turnaround here was nothing short of miraculous. The fourth generation of the model has single handily changed the global perception of the Jeep brand and in the US, it has sold incredibly well at the expense of same segment offerings from Europe.
What was even more surprising was the demand for the luxury variants like the Overland and the Overland Summit, loaded with even more kit. Average household income for Grand Cherokee buyers has gone from US$99,000 in 2010 to $125,000. For Overland buyers that number jumps to a whopping US$165,000, which is why Jeep brand is now taking sales from the Euro brands.
Jeep reliability has also shot through the roof too, with the brand jumping to the number one position in Consumer Reports Magazine’s automotive reliability survey in 2011.
It seems that Jeep can do no wrong at the moment with even the Compass, which was previously ridiculed by Jeep enthusiasts, selling well in the US after its redesign.
It’s no different in Australia either, where Jeep sales have tripled in several months across 2011 compared with the previous year.
Sergio Marcionne and his team have exceeded all expectations with the Chrysler Group turnaround and Jeep is clearly leading the charge back to its former No. 1 position. Marcionne wants the group to 2.8 million sales in 2014 and you’d have to think he just might get there.