What was considered a niche brand of off-roaders not long ago has been steadily growing into a high-volume, mainstream brand.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has some ambitious expectations for his SUV brand Jeep, which has been by far the conglomerate’s top sales performer so far this year—selling almost a half-million units in the U.S. through July according to AutoData.
According to Bloomberg, Marchionne told analysts he predicts Jeep will see a 30 percent jump in global sales to 2 million units and will eventually move a whopping 7 million Jeeps per year worldwide. For reference, Jeep sold 300,000 vehicles in 2009 when Fiat acquired Chrysler Group, and 1.4 million sport-utes globally in 2016.
While there’s no doubt things are going very well at Jeep and the SUV segment is growing rapidly, seven million units a year is still awfully ambitious. Jeep would likely need at least one of its models to sell over one million units a year, and according to IHS Markit, the only vehicle that has averaged that kind of global volume is the Toyota Corolla. Meeting that lofty goal would also mean Jeep would need to sell 50 percent more vehicles than all of FCA sold in 2016.
Since its origins of being a distinctly American brand made for American drivers, Jeep has been producing its wildly popular SUVs in China, Brazil, Italy, and, as of this year, India, in addition to its North American factories.
With the SUV/crossover craze seeing unstoppable growth, it’s easy to see why FCA is investing in Jeep as its global volume brand. Dodge pretty much just sells muscle cars now, and Chrysler only has two models, both of which are in slow-selling segments. As for the Fiat brand, it just can’t seem to gain any ground here in the States, the world's second biggest automotive market. Can Jeeps be as capable on the global sales floor as they are off-road?