'There and Back Guarantee' launched

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The new boss of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia, Steve Zanlunghi, has made his mark today with the launch of an improved 'Jeep There and Back' warranty and service deal.

All new MY17 Jeep models sold in Australia will now be offered with a transferrable five-year warranty, lifetime roadside assistance and a capped-price servicing schedule as standard, the brand's parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirmed today.

But, for the lifetime roadside assistance, there's a small catch sure to ruffle the feathers of independent service centres: All new customers get five years free roadside assistance, but if servicing of the vehicle continues with a Jeep dealership beyond the initial warranty period, the customer will benefit from lifetime roadside assistance.

Another catch, for a few buyers, is that despite the warranty increasing to five years, the distance coverage remains unchanged at 100,000km. Although still greater than the driving most Australians will do in that time (around 15,000km per year), that limit could stretch those that enjoy a regular road trip.

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The upgraded plan applies to all MY17 vehicles sold from today, although MY16 models sold in February will see a two-year extended warranty, provided by Eric Insurance, added to their standard three-year warranty.

For $1950 including GST, owners of MY15 or MY16 Jeep vehicles bought before February 2017 with be offered a two-year extended warranty beyond their standard three years, along with an additional two years of roadside assistance and five years of capped-price scheduled servicing.

Those same owners will likewise be eligible for lifetime roadside if they service their vehicle in the Jeep dealer network.

If this hasn't already been music to the ears of potential buyers, FCA isn't done yet. The company has also extended servicing schedules for MY17 Jeep models, growing from six-months/10,000km to 12 months or 15,000km for petrol and 12 months or 20,000km for diesel variants.

Sample pricing for those services, based on the 3.6-litre petrol Grand Cherokee 4x2, include $425 at 12 months / 15,000km, $595 at 24 months / 30,000km, and $425 again at 36 months / 45,000km. Pricing varies across the range, of course.

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Lastly, new pre-paid servicing plans have been launched, available in three- and five-year 'Easy Care' deals, along with an Oil Care plan for oil and filter changes.

Prices for those plans vary across the range, although indicative numbers include $1990 for the three-year plan on the 3.6-litre petrol 4x2 and 4x4 Grand Cherokee (a 26 per cent saving against normal servicing costs), growing to $3599 for the same models on the five-year plan (a 30 per cent saving).

Go for the 3.0-litre diesel or the 6.4-litre SRT hero models and pricing increases to $2495 on the three-year plan and $4459 on the five. Pricing elsewhere in the Jeep range is similar, ranging from $1419 to $4899, depending on the model and configuration.

Speaking with CarAdvice today, FCA Australia chief Steve Zanlunghi said that rolling out the Jeep There and Back Guarantee is the latest step in changes started with his predecessor, Pat Dougherty.

In 2015, Dougherty began overhauling the company's parts availability and supply program, along with its customer service and complaint handling strategies. Zanlunghi says it was these changes that made today's launch possible.

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"Pat had a different set of challenges to overcome before we could go to market with a customer ownership plan. From the minute I landed, the leadership team and I have been working really hard to develop the right proposition for the Australian market. This was not a knee-jerk reaction, there was a lot of work and research that went into shaping the 'There and Back Guarantee'," Zanlunghi said.

"We started by running focus groups in all key Australian markets with current owners, intenders and non-intenders. We then analysed that feedback and formed the basis of the program. After that, we took it to our dealer council and took their feedback on board as well. The team and I have been waiting a long time to launch this campaign and we are thrilled the day has come."

Zanlunghi, an American-Australian dual citizen with history and family in both countries, conceded in December that Jeep has an image problem here. Today, he said the company has taken steps that he believes will help, over time, to turn the brand around.

"Yes, from the all the global markets I’ve experienced and worked with, Jeep does have a unique perception issue here in Australia. We have done a significant amount of work over the past couple of years both locally and abroad. Perception does, however, lag reality and we don’t expect a turnaround in business overnight," he said.

"We’ve introduced the Jeep There & Back Guarantee to give Australian’s another reason to trust us and yes, to highlight that we back our product and more importantly, back our customers."

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Asked if a similar upgrade will be made to other brands in the local Fiat Chrysler family, Zanlunghi said that, for now, the features of the There and Back Guarantee are specific to the Jeep brand.

"We are striving to truly differentiate and focus on our brands as can been seen by our recent internal brand restructure. The Jeep “There and Back Guarantee” is an element that differentiates Jeep within FCA and other brands in Australia."

Jeep is the latest in a growing number of brands to expand its warranty offering to five years (or beyond). In January, Skoda launched a five-year warranty, carrying over its strong unlimited-kilometre coverage.