Can Jeep Flip Flop? Will The American Consumer Continue To Vote For A Compass/Patriot Successor?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
can jeep flip flop will the american consumer continue to vote for a compass patriot

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ fourth-quarter reveal of Jeep’s replacement for the Compass and Patriot comes after mountains of late-in-life success for the small SUV duo.

In Jeep’s U.S. home market, sales of the Compass — known as one of The Worst Cars Today since way back in 2006 — soared to an all-time record high of 66,698 units in calendar year 2015. Through the first five months of 2016, Compass sales are up 72 percent, a gain of 16,411 sales for Jeep’s lowest-volume model.

The Patriot, meanwhile, topped the list of TTAC’s The Worst Cars Today in 2016, sales of the Patriot also having shot up to record levels of 118,464 units in 2015. Year-over-year, U.S. Patriot sales through the first five months of 2016 grew 4 percent to 52,067 units. Combined, the Dodge Caliber-based tandem essentially produce one-quarter of Jeep’s sales in the brand’s home market, outselling every other individual Jeep nameplate.

Against this backdrop of outrageous success for two critically panned trucklets with seven-slot grilles, a single Jeep candidate will step in to fill their shoes at a Brazilian debut later this year. Jeep already has a subcompact SUV: the Renegade. Jeep already has a small and affordable off-roader: the non-Unlimited Wrangler. Jeep already has an entry to challenge America’s leading crossovers: the Cherokee.

Can Jeep find space in tight quarters for yet another small SUV? If not, we’re about to see the first Jeep flop since the Commander arrived in 2005.

Yet Jeep has already proven the brand can find high-volume niches inside its SUV-only lineup. Who’d have thought the Compass and Patriot would rapidly grow their sales while Jeep contributed 42,549 Renegade sales to the cute-ute craze in early 2016?

Fleet sales are undoubtedly a factor, though FCA spokesperson Ralph Kisiel told TTAC, “The Jeep Compass, in particular, has been performing well this year on the retail level.”

Meanwhile, a non-FCA industry source confirmed with TTAC that the Patriot derives an above-FCA-average percentage of its volume from retail sales.

Regardless of the source of the buyer — daily rental fleets or individual consumers — Jeep carved out continually available space for the antiquated Compass and Patriot by amplifying the affordability quotient. The least costly all-wheel-drive 2016 Jeep Compass is priced from $22,690, but standard discounts drop the price to $22,190 and Jeep further incentivizes with 1.9-percent financing over seven years. Edmunds.com’s pricing tools say a typical Compass Sport customer pays 6-percent below sticker. The more popular Patriot’s most expensive all-wheel-drive trim level starts at just $27,635, but with $2,500 in rebates, the price falls to $25,980. There are nine less costly Patriot variants.

But can a new Jeep entry be so inexpensive? The Patriot and Compass are easily discountable 10-year-olds, moneymakers with costs that have long since been paid for.

Moreover, we’ve seen FCA fail at replacing a Mitsubishi-related PM/MK-platform vehicle in the recent past.

Say what you will about the Dodge Caliber — no, really, we want to hear you say it — but the Chrysler Group managed to sell 277,461 Calibers in America in its first three years on the market, 2006 through 2008. Its successor — the Dodge Dart about which FCA boss Sergio Marchionne once said, “If you’re a serious carmaker and you can’t make it in this segment, you’re doomed” — is quite literally doomed. FCA won’t redevelop a Dart successor, recognizing apparently that they can’t make it in this segment. Fewer than 235,000 Darts were sold in America in its first full three years, an even worse sales performance than what the dreaded and dreadful Caliber achieved. FCA is now selling barely more than 5,000 Darts per month in the United States, well below the Caliber’s 8,400/month pace at its peak.

As already mentioned, Jeep has been known to flub a new vehicle launch. The ghastly Commander didn’t offer the requisite third-row space of a big SUV, was terrible to look at, and did 13 miles per gallon in the city (Hemi 4×4) after a fuel price spike when consumers were veering away from light trucks and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid travelled twice as far on a gallon of fuel. U.S. Commander volume tumbled 69-percent between 2006 and 2008.

We live in a new age now, however, an age in which the 2014 Cherokee fended off styling criticism to become the best-selling model at America’s top seller of SUVs and crossovers.

And it’s that fact, the realization that Jeep is operating in a market and an era in which SUVs/crossovers now generate nearly 4 in 10 U.S. new vehicle sales as the only non-luxury SUV-only brand, that solidifies the ComPatriot successor’s likelihood of victory.

Can a Jeep flop? Sure, it’s possible. But can a new, small, affordable Jeep flop in this market at this time? Almost certainly not. What’s past is prologue. We’re not looking for Jeep guidance from polls with a high margin of error, a small sampling size, and skewed demographics. These are results.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Jthorner Jthorner on Jun 27, 2016

    The Patriot and Compass sell well because they are bargain priced, look like a Jeep, are a smallish CUV and are bargain priced (I know I already said that, but price is a huge factor). A coworker just bought a 4wd new Patriot to send their daughter off to college in the mountains. Many thousands of dollars less than similar capabilities (size, awd, etc.) from any other auto maker.

  • NotFast NotFast on Jun 28, 2016

    Anything that keeps my fellow Illinoisians (including my sister in law) employed at the Belvidere plant is good for me.

  • BklynPete So let's get this straight: Ford hyped up the Bronco for 3 years, yet couldn't launch it to match the crazy initial demand. They released it with numerous QC issues, made hay for its greedy dealers, and burned customers in the process. After all that, they lose money on warranties. The vehicles turn out to be a worse ownership experience than the Jeep Wrangler, which hasn't been a paragon of reliability for 50 years. The same was true of the Aviator, Explorer, several F-150 variants, and other recent product launches. The Maverick is the only thing they got right. Yet this company that's been at it for 120 years. Just Brilliant. Jim Farley's non-PR speak: "You don't get to call me an idiot. I get to call myself an idiot first."Farley truly seems hapless, like the characters his late cousin played. Bill Ford is a nice guy but more than a bit slow on the uptake too. They have not had anything resembling a quality CEO since Alan Mulally turned the keys over to Mark Fields - the mulleted glamor boy who got canned after 3 years when the PowerShi(f)t transaxles exploded. He more recently helped run Hertz into the ground with bad QC and a faulty database that had them arresting customers. Ford is starting to resemble Chrysler in the mid-Seventies Sales Bank era. Well, at least VW has cash and envies Ford's distribution reach and potential profitability.
  • Mike Beranek This guy called and wants his business model back.
  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.
  • JLGOLDEN In order for this total newcomer to grab and hold attention in the US market, the products MUST be an exceptional value. Not many people will pay name-brand money for the pretty mystery. I can appreciate the ambition of selling $50K+ crossovers, but I think they will go farther with their $30K-$40K offerings.
  • Dukeisduke They're where Tesla was when it started - a complete unknown. I haven't heard anything about a dealer network. How are they going to sell these? Direct like Tesla? Franchises picked up by existing new car dealers?
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