I like the Jeep Wrangler. In fact, when I first visited my wife’s family in Canada back in 2004, I wanted to move to Vancouver and buy a Jeep. They were everywhere. They’re a cool looking vehicle, styled to look as tough and capable as they’re reputed to be. When Chrysler was poised for closure in the height of the global financial crisis, it was the Jeep brand that was regarded as the jewel in the Chrysler crown.
I was surprised a few weeks ago, whilst walking around a shopping mall in Melbourne, to see a Jeep clothing store. Not a Jeep section in a bigger clothing store. A whole shop dedicated to Jeep apparel. It had the same Jeep branding we know from the automotive company, just printed on jeans, T-shirts and other bits and pieces. Yes, I was surprised.
I don’t notice Australian Rules Football club sponsors that often, but I do know that there are a few car companies supporting clubs in the AFL. Ford have been a long-term sponsor of the Geelong Football Club (they have a plant there). Hyundai are a sponsor of my favourite club – Carlton. Skoda sponsors the leagues newest club in Greater Western Sydney and of course, Toyota are the major sponsors for the whole competition as well as one of the two clubs based in Adelaide.
There are probably a few more, too, but the one relevant to this article is the Richmond Football Club, which is sponsored by Jeep.
And then there’s the TV campaign they’ve been running here in Australia – I bought a Jeep. It’s died down a bit now, but a few weeks ago it was absolutely everywhere.
So why are Jeep doubling down in Australia this year?
Well, believe it or not, they’re actually building on success that they’ve already had here. Jeep has a reputation for capability and they’re reasonably well priced here. People are noticing, too, with Jeep sales up 108% in March 2012 (year on year). Jeep are not amongst the top 10 companies here, but with SUV sales growing at a steady rate, perhaps they see some potential for that to happen in the future.
BUT…… looking at reports about Jeep and their sales figures here has made me wonder: just how popular are Jeep around the world?
The USA is Jeep’s #1 market. In March 2012 they sold just over 45,000 vehicles, which was a gain of 36% year on year. That’s pretty good.
I don’t know Jeep’s exact Australian sales figures in March, but I do know they weren’t one of the Top 10 companies. Kia, at position #10, had sales of just 2,738 vehicles for the month.
And here’s why that Australian sales figure is rather important when it comes to this discussion – according to Go Auto, one of the most respected industry journals here in Oz, this great southern land of ours is Jeep’s #2 global market.
As the second-largest Jeep market in the world, Australia has considerably more clout within Fiat and Chrysler than might be expected.
So the US is #1 with 45,000 sales in March and Australia is #2 with less than 2,700?
I don’t fear for the future of Jeep at all. It was the jewel in Chrysler’s crown and now it’s one of the jewels in Fiat’s crown.
But how solid is your base when little old Australia is your #2 market in the world? When your sales drop off from 45,000 in your #1 market to less than 2,700 in your #2 market????
Heck, even tiny Saab had three markets of complimentary size atop their sales tree. Of course, Saab didn’t sell in a year what Jeep sell in a month inside the US, but still…..
It makes me wonder just how significant Jeep is in the world, and how lucky they are to have a collection of brands around them to provide some external support. The Wrangler is their bread and butter and in terms of appeal, their models fall away pretty quickly after that (for me, at least).
I hope they can lift the range as the world is a better place with brands like Jeep in it.