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file/2017-03-30/1490892575_10ca932649/1490892575_10ca932649 Jeep, No Longer Unstoppable, Wants to Fix Its Game in an Overlooked Market
By on October 15, 2016

2016 Jeep Wrangler

After posting sales gains that most automakers would sell their souls for, Jeep’s skyrocketing climb hit the upper limits of the atmosphere in September, with sales dropping by 3 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

Maybe the Jeep brand isn’t bigger than Jesus. With the new vehicle market cooling off and two of its oldest — but still strong-selling — models being pared down to one, Jeep needs to branch out to keep the momentum going.

It has products up its sleeve — a Wrangler pickup and $140,000 luxo-ute to name a couple — and has factories planned for developing nations everywhere, but Jeep could reap a sales reward if it stopped screwing up in one obvious but overlooked market.

With the exception of the American Southwest, Australia seems tailor-made for the Jeep brand. There’s warm temperatures, beaches, desert, and a patriotic thirst for off-roading and vehicles that buck the norm. Hell, the place is nearly all rural.

And yet, Jeep sales are dwindling to pathetic levels Down Under. What went wrong at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia?

For starters, the company was rocked by a scandal, with FCA Australia suing former Jeep boss Clyde Campbell for allegedly misusing $30 million in funds during his three-year stint (2010-2013). His successor Pat Dougherty, stepped down (or was pushed out) in August, two years into his three-year contract.

In 2015, a record-setting year for Australian new vehicle sales, Jeep saw its sales tumble 19.7 percent. That’s a tally of 24,418 Jeep vehicles for the whole year. The last time the U.S. recorded a monthly sales figure that low was in 2010. Australian Jeep sales in the first half of this year are down 51 percent. Is it a hemisphere thing? What goes up in America goes down in the outback?

FCA Australia’s newest boss doesn’t think so, and feels he knows exactly what the brand’s problem is. According to the Aussie publication Drive, Steve Zanlunghi claims the brand’s marketing is all off, and says he wants to reclaim the historically tough, go-anywhere appeal that has drawn customers — military and civilian — to Jeep from Day 1.

“It’s not a cute brand,” Zanlunghi told reporters this week. “It’s not a funny brand. It’s not luxury. It’s not pretentious.”

A new ad campaign is poised to launch, one that takes the place of a panned commercial that had Australians incredulously asking “You bought a Jeep?”

“I tell you I wasn’t terribly happy with what some of the direction I saw most recently,” Zanlunghi said. “If we don’t understand what the brand is, then how do we expect dealers to understand it and ultimately customers, do they know what it is? So I put together a manifesto for what the Jeep brand here is Australia and presented it to our creative agency and they get it, and then to the national sales company and they get it and finally to the dealers and they get it and they’re on board.”

Australia hasn’t escaped the SUV/crossover craze sweeping the planet, with SUV sales up nearly 16 percent last year. Market share for utility vehicles is closing in on percentages seen in the U.S. If Jeep Australia stops shooting itself in the foot, there’s gold to be found in them there hills.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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48 Comments on “Jeep, No Longer Unstoppable, Wants to Fix Its Game in an Overlooked Market...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    We all know its only a matter of reliability, AL and RobertRyan already have decided.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N
      So have brewing law suits against FCA and Jeep. If the new CEO of the FCA thinks Lack of PR was a problem, then cloud cuckoo land has a new member. Yes we certainly understand what Jeep is about, but he does not know about reliability. A word he never mentioned, but everyone else here privately and in the media has

  • avatar
    Ltd1983

    If the Land Cruiser 70 Series was sold in the US, it would probably put a hurting on Jeep sales numbers here too.

    • 0 avatar
      akatsuki

      Absolutely this.

      Toyota could wreck Jeeo with the right cars. The 4Runner and original FJ versus the Tonka truck later FJ cruiser. The Hilux.

      Put out a soft top 70 in the US on the cheap using an already federalize Tacoma engine and just wreck Jeeo already.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Ltd,

      The LC70 wouldn’t even come close to meeting any safety regs in the US. It’s an antiquated jalopy that Toyota doesn’t even sell in Japan anymore (other than a special edition every five years or so).

      If they did sell it here, it would flop. A few mudders and rock-crawlers would buy them, but that’s it. It’s useless on the interstate, or in-town, or anywhere in between.

      Sorry to break the spell, but there’s a reason why the LC70 is only sold in third world countries. Nobody else wants it.

      • 0 avatar
        Ltd1983

        Australia (you know, the subject of this article) is hardly a third world country, and the 70 Series easily outsells the Wrangler there.

        “If they did sell it here, it would flop. A few mudders and rock-crawlers would buy them, but that’s it. It’s useless on the interstate, or in-town, or anywhere in between.”

        Are you talking about the Wrangler here too? I still see plenty of them at the mall as lifestyle accessories. Something tells me more than a few gym-bro’s would have no problem driving a kitted out 70 series every day, practical or not.

        Sorry to break the spell, but there’s a reason why the Wrangler only sells well in the US, we’re a closed, non-competitive market in this class.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Yes, a few gym-bros would buy an LC70 and run it every day. That was my point: a few, not a lot.

          The current Wrangler is way ahead of the LC70 in terms of day-to-day driveability (and emissions, and crash-worthiness). You can drive one from coast to coast and not feel like it’s beaten you. You can also drive it every day just like any modern SUV.

          The TTAC Australian Auxiliary will have us believe that the LC70 sells to typical manly Aussie Bruces (and Sheilas). Fact is, it sells mostly to mining and agricultural concerns. That’s nothing to sneeze at, of course, but it’s a very different market from the Wrangler’s.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @heavy handle
            You got it right first time. L70’s are mainly sold to farmers, but quite a few are sold to the general public.
            Jeep Wrangler is far from user friendly. Hate to go long distances in one.
            Plenty of more civilised alternatives

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Granted, there are more civilized options for a cross-country drive than a Wrangler, but they aren’t that bad.

            A friend recently drove a new one from Vancouver to Toronto and she didn’t think it was much of an issue. It’s only slightly less comfortable than any other modern SUV on the highway. The seats are decent, it doesn’t wander much, and it’s not all that loud.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Australia isn’t 3rd world, but when it comes to crash standards and emissions (euro 4), it might as well be! The current 70 series platform is a 1984 design/debut. Being it’s a truck, it might as well be a 1954!

        • 0 avatar
          Oosh

          We’re catching up, Euro 5 kicked in down-under this month, Euro 6 starts phasing in in 6 months over a period of one year. Given vast majority is imported most cars on sale are 5 or 6 compliant already. Our “ANCAP” crash testing almost exactly align with “EuroNCAP”, any car that doesn’t get 5 stars is pilloried in the press and is ineligible for purchase by most companies due to their OH&S policies, which is why Toyota recently upgraded the LC70 (which started this whole sorry discussion) as the miners were going to stop buying it.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Lots of experience with new 70 series rigs while deployed and owned an 80 series which was considered the last hardcore rig North America got (solid front axle, full floater out back, and the build quality of a panzer tank). The 80 was a damn S class Benz compared to the 70 series even though the 70s were 2012 models and the last 80 was built in 97. New Jeeps are in a different universe compared to these old cruisers (yes, the 70s bones date back to 1984…it was built to fill the void left by the departure of the freaking FJ 40!). The 70 would need a lot of help to meet regulations in most of the world to include both North America and the EU.

      I love Land Cruisers, consider myself a Cruiser head, and have restored a few and built a mean 80 series. The FJ70 is agricultural compared to modern jeeps. That would make me more likely to choose it over a keep, but I’m in a distinct minority here.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The problem with the Land Cruiser 70 series proposition is that it is predicated on the idea that people buy Wranglers to travel off road instead of as costumes. Ford, GM and Fiat get away with making the trucks they do because people who use them for what they look like they should be able to do are statistically insignificant.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    “a patriotic thirst for off-roading” What does that even mean?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      (spilling beer and knocking over a bowl of peanuts)

      ‘MERICA!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Joss

      Walkabout. You drive out into the outback blind drunk with the kids. Run out of fuel and drop from alcoholism. Your kids then get to go skinny dipping with the locals.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Lightspeed – I believe they view the “rugged outback” as a symbol of Australia like the USA views the Bald Eagle as a symbol of their country. “a patriotic thirst for off-roading” is perhaps an extension of that…… or I could be full of sh!t and it is just excess hyperbole on the author’s part. LOL

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @Lou_BC
        Yes it has become a very big driver in the exploding RV Industry. Virtually everything is Off Road.
        An example :
        http://www.4x4motorhomes.com.au/dream-vehicles/

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      You drive over the curb in front of Starbucks and spill your pumpkin spice latte while texting.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Bring back the basic Jeep like in WWl: No roll cage, easy fold down windshield, simplified everything and you may have something.

    Oh, yes, dash-mounted Tommy Gun rack optional.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Australia’s total new vehicle market is under 1 million units per year. The US market is on the order of 17 to 18 million units per year. So don’t be surprised if FCA didn’t pay as much attention to Australia as the locals there would like.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @jthorner
    They are not selling 17 Million Jeeps , it is a small niche in the US Landscape. FCA wants to make Jeep global, but more than 80% is sold mainly in the US. Australia was one of the main markets for Jeep outside NA

  • avatar

    Land rovers and Toyota are more popular in colonies in Africa. Australia is not much different. I am sure they all prefer Land rovers and whatever Toyota is offering. Jeep is more like toy.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    This thread has entered some kind of time warp. Between WWI jeeps and African colonies, I don’t know what to expect next.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @Truckducken
      German Half Tracks of WW2. @ Inside looking out has a point. Jeeps are pretty peripheral outside NA, but it would seem SUV’s and to a lesser extent Pickups have aroused the interests of European manufacturers and it seems a Tsunami of new models from unfamiliar makers are to be released.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    The other thing that FCA has to overcome to sell Jeeps in this country is to actually perform and demonstrate customer service. Is it common elsewhere for the government consumer affairs organisation (ACCC) to make a car company issue a letter saying that we will do better by you, the customer, in future? Of my experience with FCA and some others, the lack of customer service and after sales assistance certainly colours my approach to buying another FCA product. For the record, I have a Fiat Freemont aka a Dodge Journey 2.4l 6 speed. The car itself is fine, but the dealer(s) are something else to behold.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      pacificpom2,

      That’s because the FCA franchise was run by a crook. he was too busy filling his pockets to worry about medium and long-term concerns like customer service.

      I hope for your sake that the new regime is less short-sighted.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    Not a chance :) The last time I went to the dealer, which is a Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Fiat/Suzuki, they had removed the FIAT badges. The only way you could tell that they were a FIAT dealership was that there were new FIAT 500’s out the front! Mind you they only sell 1 Chrysler, the 300c, One Dodge, the Journey, 2 FIATs, the 500 and the Freemont, and all the Jeeps in their various forms. So perhaps the branding is changing from DODGE/CHRYSLER/JEEP to JEEP (and other brands we try to sell)

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @pacificpom2
    It looks pretty terminal for FCA in Australia. On the other hand Case, John Holland, and IVECO are doing well, but they are a separate company under th FIAT umbrella

  • avatar

    http://www.allpar.com/news/2016/10/dodge-leaving-australia-34407

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @Big Al from Chicago
      “Jeep is the sales leader for FCA, as usual, with 1,208 sales — but even Jeep was down 40%, troubled by a low-reliability image and dealership issues. Less expensive Jeeps imported from India may increase their popularity in the future; Australia currently sees the entire Jeep line. All of FCA’s sales combined don’t quite reach either of the two top-sellers — Toyota Corolla (3,554) and HiLux ”

      Even with Corporate spin on the topic from All Par, they even acknowledge the disasterous reliability issues.,Inexpensive Jeeps from India..no thanks

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Too much success can kill a brand, whethere it’s a vehicle, clothing, or other line. Jeep is strong as a niche brand, and should stay that way. The Wranlger is closest to a true Jeep, though a Jeep pickup would not be bad. Most of that other stuff should be sold under the Dodge or Ram brands. Diluting the product with various family haulers ultimately will poison everything.

    We have enough mall crawlers as it is.

    (Owner of a well beaten 89 Wrangler YJ and a ’47 CJ2A)

  • avatar
    FalconRTV

    When I think of Jeep, my mind has images of cheap interior plastics and the connection with jaded Chrysler products. Their products look odd and are probably not very off-road capable (Wrangler excepted?). A friend had a 2014 Grand Cherokee with adjustable suspension that would overheat if the highest setting was engaged for more than few minutes in the rough stuff. I bought an FJ Cruiser instead.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    You’d have a hard time convincing me to buy a Wrangler Unlimited in a market flush with used Y60 Patrols, Prado 70s and 90s, Land Cruiser 70/80/105, boatload of diesel Pajero IIs, etc.

    I think when push comes to shove, the Wrangler is simply not as reliable/durable ‘in the bush,’ nor is it anywhere as supported in terms of getting your hands on spares in remote areas of Australia. Another very non-trivial factor is that even the 4 door Wranglers are simply not a good choice for what Australians call “touring,” or overlanding in the US. Solid front axles lose a bit of their cachet, but payload and cargo capacity play a much larger role. In the US the default picture of offroading is a Wrangler on 37s flexing over rocks, in Australia I’d imagine it’s driving some remote two track in a Land Cruiser 70 for a week or more and doing water crossings and such.

    In a similar fashion, Wranglers are novelty grey import play things for rich guys in Russia. People serious about doing a trek into the taiga or into the mountain ranges and steppes near Mongolia almost universally stick with older Japanese rigs, or seriously worked over Russian UAZ (a few Lada Nivas here and there too). The Russian stuff is very budget friendly and parts can be found in any tiny little backwater village (there’s a fairly good chance you’ll need them unless you already packed it as a spare). The Japanese 4x4s are stupendously well built, particularly well liked are the Land Cruiser 80, 105 and Nissan Patrol Y60. All have solid front axles by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Arguably the bigger problem in Australia is that the US dollar is so strong right now that they can’t begin to match prices with their competition.
      The Renegade and Compass replacement should do better, they are not US-sourced.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        heavy, again I think the problem is that the “touring” crowd that makes up the majority of offroaders in Australia doesn’t see the Wrangler as a good fit at any price. The cute-utes, sure I could see them finding their place in the cities.

        This ad kind of sums it up :p

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isC32ev4Lw4

        But yes a strong US dollar is having a very strong impact on any business that exports a US-sourced product right now, speaking from personal experience.


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