Big Discounts Could Mean Big Trouble for Midsize Jeep Gladiator

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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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.

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