Jeep CEO feels the time is right to split the storied brand from its Stellantis counterparts.
With its new plug-in powertrains and upcoming electric SUV, Jeep is evolving in today's quickly electrifying auto market. The way people buy Jeeps is changing, too. To help capitalize on its new products and build a stronger identity, company CEO Christian Meunier told Automotive News that more than 300 dealerships would add dedicated Jeep showrooms in the next two years. The automaker has a new electric crossover coming next year, and its product line is expanding, so Meunier feels the time is right to separate the brand at the retail level.
Dealers, who are ultimately on the hook for the success of a standalone Jeep store, are understandably skeptical. Some aren't on board with spending the cash on upgrading their stores, and others are having trouble seeing what's ahead. "Some don't realize the potential that exists," Meunier admitted.
He said the success of early adopters would push others to join, but he thinks Jeep could be doing more to bring them into the fold. "We need to show the dealers our future a little bit more so that they can have that vision more well defined. We have some work to do to convince them a little bit more about that, but this is the future," he said.
The shift to Jeep-only stores gives the brand a few key opportunities, including the ability to build and maintain the automaker's storied rugged off-road capabilities in an electrified world. Jeep is going electric whether the purists like it or not, so a dedicated dealership gives the company room to tell the brand story to skeptical customers. It's also a space to show off Jeep's newest SUVs, which can crest $100,000 with options.
Jeep stores also give dealers the ability to lean into the brand's aftermarket support with parts and installation services. Buyers spend more customizing Jeeps than almost any other auto brand, so dealers are keen to get in on the action with factory-backed parts. One dealer said that it keeps a decked-out Jeep Gladiator near the parts desk to show off the accessories, and it's available to test drive.
Even with a change in the physical space, the Jeep concept won't work without the right employees. "Their people have to believe it," one dealer said. "They have to treat the guests differently." However, the early movers are seeing success, so the reward is worth the effort.