Jeep Thinks the Gladiator Will Be a Hot Seller in Japan, Land of the Tiny Kei Car

The Gladiator might not be huge to Americans but by Japan's standards, it's anything but small.

jeep gladiator japan lead
Jeep

When you think of trucks, you probably don't think of Japan. Or if you do think of Japan, you think of the nation's tiny Kei trucks—fun, practical little machines for buzzing around city streets.

You wouldn't think a (relatively) big off-roading pickup like the Jeep Gladiator would necessarily fit in there, then. But in foreign markets, American pickups are often seen as a sort of novelty vehicle. Sure, the bed isn't going to see much use, if any at all, but that's not the point. As Automotive News reports, Jeep thinks it can sell plenty of them in the Land of the Rising Sun, whether the trucks are hauling anything or not.

Jeep

Surprisingly, Jeep is one of the few American brands to see any meaningful success in Japan, despite the name apparently not being good enough for Stellantis' new luxury Wagoneers. For the past seven years, sales have seen a steady increase in the island nation, with Japan being the fourth-biggest market for the Wrangler as of 2017. In fact, 54 percent of all of the vehicles Stellantis imports to Japan are Jeeps.

Now, these Japanese sales aren't huge. Jeep sold a total of 13,360 vehicles there in 2019, but that's still far better than any other American automaker is managing. General Motors sells just the Corvette and Camaro in the market and in paltry numbers, while Ford left Japan altogether in 2016 after struggling for years. The same can be said for Stellantis' other brands as well, with Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Abarth selling peanuts compared to Jeep.

Stellantis' CEO of Japanese operations, Pontus Haggstrom, says the brand sees a future of more growth and wants the Gladiator to be a part of that. He admits that the total number of units sold annually would likely be in the hundreds, but even then, the pickups would further boost the company's brand image and be a net positive for sales.

"Some people will never use the back," Haggstrom told Automotive News. "They'll just drive it because it's cool."

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