By on March 20, 2018

2017 Jeep® Renegade Limited

Two years ago, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne could barely contain his enthusiasm for the Jeep brand and its barely-tapped global appeal. A sales juggernaut in America, the rugged, go-anywhere brand had a stable of models ripe for the global picking. All it needed was more local production, more new models, and voila — world-straddling dominance.

Two years later, and the brand’s growth predictions are starting to look less than plausible. Marchionne hoped for worldwide Jeep sales of 2 million vehicles in 2018, but last year’s sales may well have been a glass of cold water in the face. While the brand’s strategy could still pay off, it’s going to take longer than expected to reach Marchionne’s target.

Forget the minor markets — Europe needs to learn to love Jeep, America needs to pick up the pace, and China can’t back off now.

Jeep’s global sales fell 1 percent in 2017, dropping to 1.388 million vehicles. In the U.S., sales of the seven-slot brand fell 11 percent (after 2016’s record tally). In Europe, despite a product push spearheaded by the second-generation Compass, sales only nudged upwards 2 percent.

The sales results were “disappointing,” said Jeep’s European brand chief, Jeff Hines, in an interview with Autocar. Earlier this year, Marchionne called the brand’s performance “lousy.”

Hines places the blame for the lackluster European tally on a delayed Compass launch. Another model, on sale since 2014, declined in spite of its Euro-friendliness. The Renegade saw its sales fall 4.8 percent in 28 European countries (and 3 percent in the United States).

This will all soon change, Hines said, calling 2018 “the year of Jeep” in Europe. The Compass is now in place, and new model introductions loom. Among them, the same next-generation Wrangler that set the internet ablaze with rumor in North America over the past two years. Also scheduled to appear is a restyled Cherokee, a facelifted Renegade, and — just maybe — a baby Jeep built off the Fiat 500’s petite skeleton.

FCA’s five-year plan comes out June 1st, so we’ll likely see confirmation then (dream on if you think you’ll get one here). We also might get a look at the updated Renegade, expected later this year.

Hines said getting the UK interested in Jeep is key, as locals on those misty isles traditionally stay close to the home-grown Land Rover brand. FCA needs to soften that resistance by communicating the brand’s attributes “in an easy to understand way,” he said. “That’s the biggest challenge for us.”

In China, buyers can look forward to a new model of their very own in the form of the three-row Grand Commander. It couldn’t arrive at a better time. Despite boffo volume growth last year, Jeep brand sales dropped significantly in China in 2018. FCA needs the Orient on board to reach its global goal.

Still, it’s not all dark clouds for the brand. Tentative good news is starting to crop up. Jeep brand sales rose 12 percent in the U.S. in February, year over year, and 7 percent over the first two months of 2018. Canadian Jeep sales rose 36 percent over those same two months. In Europe, Jeep sales rose 68.8 percent in January, year over year — its best sales month to date.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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21 Comments on “As It Tries to Gain Traction in Europe, Jeep Brand Boss Promises ‘the Year of Jeep’...”

  • avatar
    Gail Bloxham

    There is a flaw in FIAT’s thinking with regard to the Jeep Brand. They fail to understand that the major appeal of the entire Jeep image is twofold. Not the stable of fluff they (try to) market as Jeeps.
    The twofold backbone of Jeep must be simple md easily understood by the public. The way Fuat is doing it muddies the water. Jeep needs simple: • A nice Grand Cherokee with the 5.7 V8. Fast-reliable-capable.
    Eludes total CONFIDENCE.
    • A nice basic rugged 4WD or (AWD?) (!) thst is truely utilitarian.
    This too must elude TOTAL CONFIDENCE.
    Envision a Jeep with styling of old but stretched out into a basic smallish pickup. Easily an EV too. Perhaps even a mid-sized king cab pickup as well. Sell it stripped. Sell it all dolled up.
    Make some money already.
    From Jeeps natural already intact target market. (a worldwide existing intact ready to buy target market)
    Fiat has filled the Jeep brand with nonsense products squeezed in between these two Basic Jeep Products.
    Products which the public worldwide can not make any sense of. And half these “squeezed in vehicles” are FWD! This alone degenerates the Brand Image.
    Jeep can indeed sell up to the 2 million mark if they ever get their marketing team to function better. But they don’t know how.
    Funny thing though. (I do)

    • 0 avatar

      Do you mean “exudes”?

    • 0 avatar

      Believe me, Gail; the Jeeps do exude Confidence.

      What some here don’t seem to understand is that people just aren’t willing to buy a new car every one, two or three years. Today, buyers are pushing out to five, six, even eight years before replacement and not everybody thinks a lease is a good thing (It isn’t.)

      When a new model comes out, it picks up pretty strongly for the first two or three years, then it starts showing its age as people want something newer and different. Back in the ’60s and even early ’70s you could get by with minor (but obvious) nose and tail clip changes for five years or more… but then they stopped doing that much, keeping the style almost unchanged for 5 years and now over 8 years for some models. So an early rush followed by a slow decline is ‘normal’ now and the OEMs aren’t willing to make a notable refresh that changes the look significantly as they try to stretch the overall body style as long as possible.

      Of course, it doesn’t help that so many models look so much like other models. The new Compass, despite riding on a barely-stretched Renegade platform, looks TOO MUCH like the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee; there’s almost no individuality among them. Add to this an abysmal, monochromatic color palette with maybe only three actual colors for the whole lineup and people get bored very quickly. In reducing costs, the OEMs are lowering demand for their vehicles. They need variety and they’re not offering it.

      • 0 avatar

        “the Jeeps do exude Confidence.”

        Yeah those Patriots, Compasses, Cherokees and Renegades are just bursting at the seams with confidence! LOL

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Gail is correct, globally Jeeps are percieved as unreliable.

        • 0 avatar

          “…globally Jeeps are percieved as unreliable.”

          Geez what must they think of European cars? Do they vomit at the sight of a Fiat or Mercedes?

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Ummm …………. again Dimmest!!!

            A Jeep is a Fiat, almost.

            And how can you even consider comparing a Mercedes Benz, ie, G Wagen or even the new X Class with a FCA product?

            Wow, missed those meds today?

          • 0 avatar
            spreadsheet monkey

            Fiat sells very strongly in southern Europe and Latin America, so there are definitely some people out there who don’t vomit at the sight of them!

            It’s not unusual to see 20+ year old Pandas and Unos trundling around the streets of Naples or Sao Paolo. There’s no salt on the roads and these older cars don’t have the complicated electronics of newer Fiats/Alfas. They’re cheap to repair and they’re well understood by local mechanics.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      To me Jeep only has the Wrangler to build on. Produce as many configurations from the platform and start from scratch with everything else, focusing on reliability and quality.

      • 0 avatar

        Mercedes is marque of great splendor, but that’s all it has over Fiat.

        High in “Quality” has a full spectrum of meanings. High “Reliability” is a lot easier to define. But one doesn’t ever guarantee the other.

        While the typical Jeep may have laughable panel gaps, hard plastic interiors, and likely to leave you with trim piece falling off in your hand, the Mercedes just leaves you stranded.

  • avatar

    When I first saw the photo at the top I wondered why there was a 500L picture at the top of a Jeep posting. It looked like a 500L I saw yesterday in the parking lot at Kroger.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Jeep globally has a reputation problem.

    Bluntly, they just are not reliable against peers.

    A Grand Cherokee in Australia is at the bottom of the heap price wise against the many mid size SUVs we have on offer.

    The Wrangler is not viewed as the best affordable, bang for buck off roader. The lesser Jeeps from the Cherokee down sit lower than Korean vehicles.

    The people who buy Jeep are those chasing bargain buckets, similar to those who buy Chinese.

    Sad, but for Jeep to improve globally will take a lot of cash and a lift in quality to bring them to developed nation expectations. This is the global image of Jeep.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, the replies to a clone of this post on Autocar UK, speak of little else but unreliability. Marchionne and his Italian studs never could wrap their minds around the concept that quality counts. 25% off. That’s FCA marketing in two words here in Canada, and lots of people take the bait, over and over.

      • 0 avatar

        I must be one of the luckiest people to ever have owned a Grand Cherokee then because the two used 2012 Grand Cherokees we gave to our grand daughter for her wedding still provide problem-free DD duties in Surprise, AZ, to this day. Both are over 100K on the odo.

        I’ve had several Jeeps before, including a Grand Wagoneer, and there was always something amiss with them.

        But since Daimler did the WK2 JGC, it’s been a moneymaker, although starting with the 2014 MY quirks and idiosyncrasies started to pop up.

        Irritating, yes. But none caused stalling or affected mobility.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        All Chrysler products are viewed with caution in Australia.

        Chrysler/Jeep have positioned themselves as the cheaper option in the vehicle market. Chrysler never once tried to lift its appeal to move up.

        Chrysler will sell on price only, like Chinese vehicles. But, Chinese vehicles are improving rapidly in the quality department.

  • avatar

    A “baby jeep” on the underpinnings of the FIAT 500?

    Shades of the Mini Moke.

    Maybe as a girlfriend’s shopping car on the Cote D’Azure but hard to see a market when it’s basically a styling exercise

  • avatar

    We don’t need more Jeeps riding on Fiat 500 underpinnings.

    We need a REAL Cherokee… like Jeep used to build. I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I bought a new XJ Sport in 95. I unloaded it after 15 months. It was pathetic and heartbreaking to own. Embarassing.

      No, we don’t want any Jeeps of old. We want a new reliable Jeep.

      • 0 avatar

        Odd- they had a reputation here of being bombproof. I can’t say how many examples I’ve seen rolling well into the six digit odometer readings. They have an almost cult following with the off-road crowd here.

  • avatar

    sales of the smaller models are growing in Brazil, China, and now India…and that will account for a lot.

    a new Wrangler will certainly help in the developed world markets. But a new Grand Cherokee would really, really, really help.

    and a 100k warranty!

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