Government regulations have always shaped the automotive industry. From a US perspective, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has often played an outsized role in this area. Now, CARB rules might just see the Ford Bronco best the Jeep Wrangler on the battlefield of sales figures.
As covered previously by The Drive, CARB rules will require automakers to sell a certain proportion of zero-emissions vehicles from 2026. Under these rules, some companies, like Ford, are assessed on their nationwide sales. Stellantis, however, is assessed only on the vehicles it sells in the 14 states that abide by CARB rules. In preparation for the change, Stellantis has stopped shipping non-electrified vehicles to dealers in these states, helping to goose the numbers.
Automotive News reports that this is causing issues for Jeep dealers. Customers can still order non-hybrid Stellantis vehicles in CARB states, but they're not available just sitting on dealer lots. Where Jeep is concerned, it's left dealers with only hybrid Wrangler 4xe models on the floor. For customers that want a gas truck on a short timescale, Jeep dealers are left with nothing to offer. Ford dealers face no such hurdles, and are able to keep plenty of Broncos in stock.
The strange situation could be enough to help the Bronco best the Wrangler in sales. The first quarter of 2023 saw Bronco sales rise by 38% to 32,430 units. In contrast, Wrangler volumes slid 17 percent, down to 37,971. With a gap of just 6,000 cars, the Bronco could become America's best-selling convertible adventure SUV any day now.
Speaking to Automotive News, Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury noted that availability is a big deal when it comes to making sales. "Having vehicles on the lot is the curb appeal that we speak of," said Drury, adding "Having a variety available to show a customer is so worthwhile."
It's not necessarily all doom and gloom for Jeep. Kelley Blue Book analyst Brian Moody notes that many customers are perfectly happy with ordering a vehicle from the factory. Regardless, it does mean there's more work to do for Jeep dealers in CARB states. It's not necessarily easy to explain to a customer why the dealership doesn't have any straight-up gas cars on the lot. "It could be very puzzling," said Drury, noting that it adds unwelcome friction to the sales process.
The problem will only affect a broader swathe of customers down the line. Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia are all planning to follow CARB rules in the near future. It does also bear noting that the CARB rules on sales percentages of zero-emissions vehicles don't actually take effect until 2026. Stellantis is just getting out ahead of the curve for strategic reasons.
Presently, the situation can be boiled down quite simply. If you're in a CARB state, and you want a non-hybrid convertible off-roader today? You're probably driving away with a Bronco. If you're willing to wait a little longer, or go hybrid, then a Jeep dealer will be happy to help.
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