Why So Many Americans Are Buying Jeeps These Days
Back in the darkest years of the global financial crisis, Jeep could only muster a little over 200,000 annual sales in America, with little influence in foreign markets. Today, it’s one of the fastest-growing automotive brands in the world, with sales expected to top 1.2 million vehicles worldwide for 2015. This week, the company has announced its sales figures for June, and so far, it’s right on track to meet those projections – and then some.
The venerable Jeep brand enjoyed its best June sales in its 74-year history, selling 71,529 vehicles in the U.S., bringing the year-to-date domestic sales to 401,689. On top of a record-setting month for the brand, The Jeep Cherokee (18,472 sold), Jeep Patriot (9,691 sold), and even the iconic Jeep Wrangler (19,159 sold) all had their best June sales months ever. In its third full month on sale, Jeep sold 4,858 all-new Renegades (which we recently drove), a 10% uptick from May, and a sign that the company’s smallest crossover could be starting to catch on.
Jeep’s strong June was the driving force behind Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ strongest June sales since 2006, and its 63rd consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. Other big FCA highlights include Chrysler 200 sales up 153% over 2014, and the Dodge Journey crossover having its best sales month ever, with 9,827 sold. Elsewhere in Detroit, Ford enjoyed a 2% sales increase, while General Motors experienced a 3% slide.
This latest news from Jeep and FCA caps off a particularly eventful month for the smallest member of Detroit’s Big Three. FCA chief Sergio Marchionne began to push for consolidation of the auto industry earlier in the spring, but insiders say he may now be preparing to launch a hostile take over bid for GM. And while those plans may turn out to be pie in the sky (most of the auto industry seems to think so), FCA also made waves by announcing the expansion of its legendary Alfa Romeo brand in the American market, starting with the gorgeous Giulia sports sedan in 2016, followed by six additional new vehicles by 2018.
On top of Alfa’s big return, insiders say that Jeep’s performance portfolio is about to be doubled with the introduction of the 707 horsepower Hellcat V8-powered Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, expected for sometime in 2017. While it will be based on the already formidable SRT Grand Cherokee, the supercharged 6.2 liter V8 mated to Jeep’s all-wheel drive system will take performance SUVs to a whole new level, and should be a real threat to upcoming super-fast SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus and the Bentley Bentayga at a fraction of the price.
In a few short years, Fiat Chrysler has gone from the also-ran that is the “.5,” in “The Big 2.5,” to the emerging power player that has scrubbed any remaining sense of irony from the term “The Big Three.” And while Marchionne still searches for a partner in his quest for a merger, his company is growing more powerful on its own with every Jeep it sells. At the unveiling of the Alfa Romeo Giulia last month, Marchionne said that the company hoped to sell 400,000 Alfas worldwide by 2018, up from 68,000 in 2014. When asked how he intends to hit that target, he replied that the company will do the same things it did to grow the Jeep brand into what it is today. It may be foolish to think the company can make lightning strike twice with two very different brands, but if this month has shown anything, it’s that FCA just might have this elusive sales thing figured out.