Jeep Australia has slumped to less than 9000 sale so far this year and is blaming Australian social media users for the poor result.
Words by Dave Morley: Jeep bosses want Australians to stop picking on them. The brand in this country is seriously under the pump right now, and it’s all your fault. Apparently.
While conventional wisdom has it that buyers are simply switching off to Jeep in the face of reliability concerns and a perceived lack of skill at dealership level, Jeep brass says that’s not the reason. Even after FCA’s recent move to give all Aussie Jeeps a five-year warranty, lifetime roadside assistance and capped-price servicing, the brand continues to struggle. From a high of more than 30,000 units in 2018, Australian Jeep sales had slumped to just 8270 in 2019 and are still in free-fall.
That contrasts dramatically with Jeep’s global performance, where sales grew from 300,000 in 2009 to about 1.5 million this year. But Jeep bosses maintain the problem is not about quality or reliability. According to recently appointed Australian Jeep boss, Kevin Flynn, “It’s not a product issue”.
“We don’t have these problems elsewhere in the world,” he claimed at the recent international launch of the new Jeep Gladiator in New Zealand. Instead he blames Australian social-media commentators for the brand’s poor reputation. “It’s (Jeep-bashing) almost become a sport.”
Jeep’s global president, Christian Meunier, speaking at the same press conference, was a little more circumspect, preferring to lay the blame on previous management teams.
“When you have problems (with brand perception or customer service) it’s your responsibility to jump on it. And that wasn’t done”.
Meanwhile, Mr Flynn confirmed that Jeep would not extend its factory warranty to seven years to match many of its rivals.
“When I look around the globe, five years is a pretty good deal.”
“We’ve got more than adequate (warranty) cover and we do take care of our customers.”
In fact, Mr Flynn even suggested that a seven-year warranty was – somehow – potentially sending the wrong message to consumers. He also claimed that fast action now and renewed technical competence would turn Jeep’s fortunes around.
And while management would not commit to a timeframe for the that process, Mr Flynn suggested that it would be less than five years. All of which suggests that the new Gladiator is a very important model for Jeep in Australia.
“It (Gladiator) gives us a chance to get back on short-lists,” he said. “It represents a bit of a re-set for us.”