In the past 75 years, wars have been fought with Jeep and they have been fought over Jeep. The original four-wheel-drive utility vehicle took GIs across Europe in WWII, then was domesticated for sun and toil after the war. It provoked mergers between automakers and has become the brightest star in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family.
“Jeep is bringing sales,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. “Their focus on smaller SUVs with respected fuel economy hits the sweet spot.”
Jeep endured through successive owners, many of whom consumed entire automakers to snag the profit-generating brand. Willys-Overland sold Jeep to ship builder Henry J. Kaiser in 1953. Jeep became part of American Motors in 1970, was purchased by Chrysler in 1987, and has been controlled by DaimlerChrysler, Cerberus Capital, and now FCA.
Under FCA, smaller crossovers such as today’s Renegade and Cherokee have elevated Jeep to new heights.
Jeep sold 1.2 million units last year for 22 percent growth globally and 25 percent domestically; Latin America experienced the largest Jeep growth, 135 percent.
According to Automotive News, Jeep increased its load as the bestselling brand within FCA.
Sales are strong despite quality issues that have placed it near the bottom of J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study. The study highlights real-world experiences of consumers reporting defects after three years of ownership. Issues have ranged from infotainment confusion to transmission failure.
In 2013, Jeep was fourth from the bottom with 178 defects per 100 vehicles.
Considering rising sales, do ratings matter?
“Jeep is kind of a Teflon brand,” Caldwell said. “It takes criticism, but with record market share, doesn’t really affect them.”