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Friday, December 19, 2014
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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Jeep sales remain strong

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

U.S. sales of Toledo-made Jeep Wranglers and Jeep Libertys so far this year are ahead of 2003, but while the Liberty had a record-breaking June, it lags behind the Ford Escape both for the month and the year.

The Wrangler continues to blaze trails. Its U.S. sales are up 33 percent this year to 44,709 after June sales increased 1 percent to 6,963, DaimlerChrysler AG announced yesterday.

Liberty's U.S. sales climbed 10 percent so far this year to 86,319, while June numbers were up 7 percent to 13,579. The Liberty broke records both for June and the second quarter, said Gary Dilts, Chrysler's senior vice president of sales.

Yet the sport-utility vehicle's main foe, the Escape, which has more corporate fleet sales than the Liberty, has had an even better year with sales of 98,532, a 25 percent jump, after having June sales increase 11 percent to 16,314, according to Ford Motor Co.

Still, Liberty sales should pick up even more this summer as inventory of the Detroit-made Jeep Grand Cherokee dwindles before the redesigned model starts making its way to dealership lots this fall, said Ralph Mahalak Jr., sales manager at Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep.

"All the Jeep sales have done very well for us this year," said Mr. Mahalak, whose family also owns dealerships in Winterhaven, Fla. and Estes Park, Colo.

Overall, Chrysler this year is doing the best among the Big Three with a 2 percent hike in U.S. sales compared to the first six months of 2003 at 1.1 million vehicles. General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. each posted larger-than expected, double-digit sales declines last month.

For the year, GM's U.S. sales have increased less than 1 percent to 2.3 million vehicles, and Ford's have fallen 3 percent to 1.7 million vehicles.In June, Chrysler sales were up 1 percent from the month a year ago, while Ford sales dropped 8 percent and GM's plunged 15 percent.

Among foreign brands posting higher year-over-year results were Toyota Motor Sales USA, American Honda Motor Co., Nissan North America, Hyundai Motor America and BMW.

Toyota, the No. 1 Japanese automaker and No. 4 behind GM, Ford and Chrysler in U.S. sales, ended its best-ever six months of sales in 47 years of business in the United States. The automaker sold more than 1 million new cars and trucks in the United States through June.

Analysts predicted overall June results would be off from a year ago and down significantly from May's torrid selling pace, but said a strengthening economy should bode well for business the rest of the year.

For the Toledo-built brands, Mr. Mahalak estimated Liberty sales are up 10 percent in Mon-

roe this year while Wrangler sales have jumped 30 percent. Sales for the brand are 15 to 20 percent higher than a year ago, he said.

Sales of the three Jeep models are up 12 percent this year nationwide at 226,146 SUVs.

At multi-brand Yark Automotive Group in Sylvania Township, one of the largest Jeep dealerships in the country and the sales leader in April, Jeep sales are up 35 percent in large part because of the Wrangler, said Jack Streit, assistant manager.

Chrysler reduced incentives on the Wrangler last month, a good indication that the SUV's rise has life, Mr. Streit said. After a surprisingly strong April, Yark Jeep has built up its inventory for the Wrangler to 50, and it has a couple of hundred Libertys, too, he said.

In Mexico, meanwhile, Wrangler sales are up 25 percent to 397 and Liberty sales are up 33 percent to 6,642. Canadian sales are scheduled to be released Monday.

Outside of North America, Wrangler sales are up 29 percent so far this year to 3,179 vehicles. Sales in those countries of the Liberty, which is called Cherokee outside of North America, are up 8 percent to 16,624.

The Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant makes virtually all of the Libertys and Wranglers sold worldwide.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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