Having a CEO named Mike Manley certainly helps.
The Jeep brand has managed to remain one of FCA's best with a lineup made up exclusively of SUVs. In fact, FCA knows that strong Jeep sales has helped keep it steady. So what makes the Jeep lineup so special? Well, the current Jeep range includes the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Renegade, Compass, Patriot, and of course, the Wrangler. None of these models seems like the most practical SUV in the world. None of them are even available with seven seats. Clearly the marque must be doing something else really well.
The Jeep brand has a reputation for being tough and capable off-road. However, it doesn't seem like it's really building models for the type of people who like to get dirty on a rocky trail. The new Renegade is based on the Fiat 500 X, The Cherokee is based on the Chrysler 200, and the Patriot and Compass are based on the old Dodge Caliber. This isn't really an impressive pedigree for tough off-roaders. The Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler still have rugged underpinnings, but the Jeep brand has somehow convinced people that all of its models are as impressive as the Wrangler when the going gets tough. Jeep does offer trail-rated versions of every model, but a FWD Patriot really isn't meant to go off-road.
Perhaps the Jeep brand has become more of a fashion statement than a tool. The slogan "It's A Jeep Thing" is some really clever marketing. The Wrangler especially is one of those cars that you have to have a certain mentality to drive. Despite all of the Wrangler's many amazing features, it is perennially ranked as one of the worst cars to buy by consumer magazines. This is because the Wrangler isn't very fuel efficient, is poorly insulated, not well equipped, and has a rough ride. The average driver would sit in a Wrangler and think that it's too simple and uncomfortable, but these are the same traits that make it so desirable to off-roading fanatics. The rest of the Jeep brand simply emulates the Wrangler.
People don't buy a Jeep because it's the cheapest SUV on the market, or because it's the most practical. There are plenty of seven-passenger SUVs out there, and plenty that are less expensive, but few offer the same cool-factor as a Jeep. The Wrangler is too expensive and too extreme for a lot of people, so a model like the Renegade makes a lot of sense for someone who wants the looks of a Wrangler at a much lower price point. Since most of these owners are never going to take the SUV off-road anyway, it doesn't matter that most Jeep models can't go off-road as well as the Wrangler. Much like the Range Rover, Jeep has become an icon for people who want to show off how cool they are.
We like to think that Mike Manley has thought a lot about Land Rover. The Jeep brand has been creeping up-market with models like the Grand Cherokee SRT8 and the upcoming Trackhawk and will soon release a Range Rover-rivaling Grand Wagoneer. Basically, the Jeep brand has become the ultimate expression of being outdoorsy. The Range Rover is a status symbol for the rich and famous, and Jeep has found its niche as the affordable option for people who dream of owning a Range Rover but don't want to deal with the high cost and maintenance. A Jeep is a blue collar Land Rover that shows that American SUVs can compete with the British, and do so for a better price.
SUVs are becoming even more popular, and Jeep should continue to outsell other FCA brands like Chrysler and Dodge. And with models like the new Compass, things will only get better. We are excited to see what Jeep has in store for the future. A new Wrangler will be introduced soon, and the Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is bound to be exciting. The Jeep brand is FCA's bread and butter, and will continue to be its best seller.