But how will the Gladiator affect sales?
Jeep sales have reached record highs in 2018, as the company prepares to break one million units total for the year. In an interview with AutoGuide, Tim Kuniskis, head of Jeep and Alfa Romeo, said he attributes Jeep's success to the strong brand recognition. “The only thing that really matters at the end of the day is the brand. The strength of the brand, the positioning of the brand and how you differentiate yourself in the market," Kuniskis said.
“[There are] 42 brands in the industry and you have 300-some-odd nameplates, if you don’t have a positioning that stands out and people understand, you got nothing. I don’t care what technology you put in it, you’re a commodity.”
Jeep's total sales have been particularly bolstered by high demand for the latest Wrangler. "We’re going to sell 250,000 in North America this year,” said Kuniskis. “It’s the best year the vehicle’s ever had. You know, if Wrangler was a brand all by itself it would beat 25 of the other brands out of the 42.”
Even with such strong demand, dealerships are starting to report having too many Wranglers on their lots. FCA has no plans to reduce production, so perhaps it will offer some juicy incentives to help sell even more units and clear out excess inventory.
All of Jeep's other vehicles are also selling well. In fact, “every single car is going to be up at retail year-over-year,” according to Kuniskis. Things may change slightly with the arrival of the Gladiator pickup truck, though Jeep doesn't seem concerned. From the offset, the Gladiator was designed to be so much more than just a Wrangler with a bed.
“So, from the first day that we started looking at this we wanted to make sure that it would not cannibalize Wrangler,” explained Kuniskis. “Because you look at it and, of course, you say ‘Wrangler,’ right?” But if you see the Gladiator in person, it's easy to see how its dimensions differ from even the four-door Wrangler Unlimited.
“So, from day one, we looked at the real reasons that somebody buys a midsize truck. We did not want to say, ‘Hey, we know who a Wrangler buyer is so let’s put a bed on it and sell it,’” said Kuniskis.
Even FCA doesn't know exactly what the sales mix between the Wrangler and Gladiator will be - Kuniskis simply said, “We’ll do the best we can."