Jeeps are plain cool no matter where.
Japan has long been familiar with the Jeep brand, going all the way back to WWII. During the conflict, Japanese soldiers captured an abandoned US Army Jeep in the Philippines and sent it home to be reverse-engineered. The result was the first Toyota Land Cruiser. Today, Jeeps remain very popular in Japan and the automaker intends to seriously expand volume over the next three years.
Automotive News reports this new expansion plan involves opening at least 100 new dealerships in the country through 2023. Currently, there are 82. Over the next three years, Jeep aims to sell over 20,000 units a year, up from last year's record of 13,588. This was also Japan's seventh consecutive year of record Jeep sales, despite the pandemic.
In fact, Japan has become the largest market for the Jeep Wrangler outside of North America. The launch of the Jeep Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid for 2021 is expected to further boost the brand's appeal. Jeep also listened to Japanese customers by offering discounts and factory-installed navigation systems. Over the past several years, Jeep gradually increased Japanese imports while other American automakers downsized.
General Motors only sells two brands in Japan: Cadillac and Chevrolet, with the Corvette and Camaro the only models from the latter. Ford left the Japanese market entirely a few years ago.
But there's another key reason why FCA (now Stellantis) Japan has thrived: virtual marketing. The automaker switched to this method a full 10 years before the pandemic struck. Last year, FCA Japan began offering a deferred payment plan allowing customers to skip up to five monthly bills and subsequent repayments. While Americans are used to generous savings plans like this, it was almost unheard of in Japan and customers there responded in droves.
Jeep also happens to be the so-called "hero" brand of FCA Japan, easily outselling Fiat and Alfa Romeo. And thanks to Jeep, FCA has increased its share of the Japanese import market from 8.1 percent in 2019 to 9.3 percent last year.