Big Discounts Could Mean Big Trouble for Midsize Jeep Gladiator

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
big discounts could mean big trouble for midsize jeep gladiator

Jeep dealers are now discounting Gladiator models by as much as $9,000, indicating demand for the Wangler-based pickup has seriously cooled off. Considering the insane markups we saw at launch, that’s not much of an insult.

Now that Fiat Chrysler only reports sales on a quarterly basis — an obnoxious trend sweeping through the industry like a plague — we don’t know how many Gladiators leave dealer lots month-to-month. It looks like the pickup averaged a hair above 5,000 U.S. deliveries every thirty days in 2019. That’s a far cry from the midsize pickup segment leaders, but it was also the first year of Gladiator production.

With oodles of character, legitimate off-road capabilities and higher-than-average pricing, it’s also a bit of an odd duck. While interesting designs can occasionally be too much for a (sometimes large) subset of shoppers, pricing can make or break a car’s sales prowess. Some are of the mind that Jeep expected too much from consumers and that these lofty discounts are proof.

Automotive News recently framed the Gladiator as its own worst enemy. The base model starts at $35,040 (including delivery fees) whereas the brunt of its segment rivals can be had for about ten grand less. Dealer incentive bulletins from January indicated that Jeep was cool slashing $2,000 off 2020 Gladiators while other manufacturers offered similar (sometimes higher) incentives on their midsize pickups. However, a mashup of dealer discounts and a new rebate has resulted in Gladiator deals getting much sweeter in some areas.

From Automotive News:

Some dealerships already are offering discounts of up to $9,000 on the Gladiator less than a year after its release, according to shopping site CarsDirect. In a dealer bulletin obtained by Automotive News, FCA offered support starting in mid-January in the form of $2,000 bonus cash on all but the Rubicon trim. Jeep’s website listed a $2,000 sweetener available in certain regions through March 2.

Some dealers say Gladiator sales have slowed after a blazing start that saw early adopters scooping up higher-end trims. But they aren’t ready to panic yet.

Some dealers say the pickup is selling about the same as the Wrangler. Others complain that demand has cooled and worry the Gladiator is cannibalizing Wrangler volume. The big picture doesn’t reflect this; Wrangler volume was down an almost negligible amount in 2019, with Gladiator scooping up about four times the volume lost in sales — resulting in 40,037 U.S. deliveries.

Considering Ford’s Ranger saw over twice that volume, and with Chevy’s Colorado doing better than that, it would seem that FCA made a mistake. Yet direct comparisons aren’t easy to make. With a starting MSRP of $35k, Jeep makes quite a bit of cash on every Gladiator sold — and it would have known this before it hit the market. Dealers report customers eager to add options and climb trim levels, which isn’t abnormal for a brand new model. Jeep also has an excellent list of aftermarket parts and a consumer base that’s happy to take advantage of it.

That’s not to say the Gladiator is better or so totally different that the inflated sticker price can be completely rationalized. Pretty much every offering in the midsize truck segment does the job with its own unique flavor. Jeep’s just happens to be the most piquant and off-road focused. FCA knows that people might be inclined to spend more on something a little unique and likely isn’t as worried about pickup volume as it is about profitability.

The Gladiator is still overpriced for your typical midsize pickup shopper (where the Colorado awaits), but those discounts are here to help. Jeep just needs to be careful to maintain balance while retaining some amount of hype. Revisiting the model’s sales performance halfway through 2020 should equip us with a better sense of the the truck’s wellbeing.

[Images: FCA]

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  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Feb 13, 2020

    IMHO, with the discounts, the Gladiator is priced at what the sticker should be. In other words, it's still overpriced, and dead to a lot of people I know who would want one for a sane price. They don't mind spending $35K or so, but not $45K for what seems like a $35K vehicle. The people I know who were formerly interested in it are either driving Ram Classics or other full sized trucks bought at a big discount.

  • MiataReallyIsTheAnswer MiataReallyIsTheAnswer on Feb 24, 2020

    Gladiators listing in the FIFTIES without a V8 even available is a total joke. 9 Grand off would be the LOW end of what it would take to get me interested.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?