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Published: Wednesday, 1/8/2014 - Updated: 11 months ago

Jeep bolstered by record sales

Cherokee’s arrival, 29% jump in China offer more optimism

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Chrysler Group said the Toledo Assembly Complex built 223,039 Jeep Wranglers in 2013, a 14 percent increase from 2012. It’s the only site that builds Wranglers. Chrysler Group said the Toledo Assembly Complex built 223,039 Jeep Wranglers in 2013, a 14 percent increase from 2012. It’s the only site that builds Wranglers.
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Jeep set U.S. and global sales records in 2013, even as the brand’s lineup was without a crucial vehicle for most of the year.

Chrysler Group LLC said this week it sold 731,565 Jeeps worldwide last year. Of those sales, 490,454 — about 67 percent — were in the United States.

It’s the second straight year Jeep has put up record sales figures.

Jeep’s sales have been fueled by improved products, a hot market in the United States, and a stronger push internationally.

China in particular has played a big role for Jeep. The company said Jeep sales in China were up 29 percent in 2013, after more than doubling from 2011 to 2012.

Officials had their sights set high in 2013, as the new Toledo-built Jeep Cherokee was supposed to play a significant role in boosting Jeep well above the levels recorded in 2012.

As it was, Jeep dealers sold down their inventory of the discontinued Liberty more quickly than expected at the end of 2012, and Cherokees — which compete in America’s largest SUV segment — weren’t ready to sell until late in October.

But even with those struggles, Jeep’s global sales were up up 4 percent from 2012. U.S. sales were up 3 percent.

“We achieved this record while being out of the world’s largest SUV segment for three-quarters of the year,” Jeep brand CEO Mike Manley said in a statement. “With a full lineup of capable, efficient SUVs, and with Cherokee arriving in Jeep showrooms across the globe, we expect to continue our sales momentum in 2014.”

The four continuing models in Jeep’s lineup all had strong years. U.S. sales for each of the four were up at least 10 percent over 2012, with three models setting new U.S. and global sales records.

That included the Toledo-built Jeep Wrangler. Chrysler Group said it sold 155,502 Wranglers in the United States and 210,715 globally in 2013. That’s up from 144,669 U.S. sales and 194,142 global sales in 2012.

The Toledo Assembly Complex, the only plant that builds Wranglers, has been especially busy trying to keep up with that demand. The company said it built 223,039 Wranglers last year, up 14 percent from 2012.

Compass and Patriot also set new U.S. and global sales records.

Local dealers said Tuesday they shared in on Jeep’s success. Doug Kearns, the general manager at Yark Automotive Group, said the company’s Jeep dealership sold 924 vehicles last year, the most since 2007.

“Our sales of Cherokee have been great since it was introduced,” he said. “We’re doing almost 40 a month since we started selling the Cherokee. That will even increase our sales greater for 2014.”

Up the road in Monroe, Ralph Mahalak, Jr., also expects big things in 2014 thanks to the Cherokee. Jeep is already the top-selling brand of the four Chrysler Group products he sells at the Monroe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram Superstore, and he said Jeep continues to become a bigger part of his business.

“It’s nice to have the larger Jeep lineup,” he said. “And it’s nice to have vehicles and a brand that so many people love.”

Jeep has also worked to expand its base.

“We’ve added a couple luxury trims to Grand Cherokee with the new Summit model, and as we continue to get better fuel economy, those are the things that are attracting new customers,” said Jim Morrison, Jeep’s director of product marketing.

Dealers say it’s working.

“We’re talking to customers we’ve never had in our showroom before,” Mr. Mahalak said.

Officials say Jeep has also had success with the special edition Wranglers it released over the last year. But the last week or so of snow may be the best advertising of all.

“Days like the last couple really help illustrate how these great vehicles can make your life a little easier,” Mr. Morrison said.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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