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Jeep resets for sustained 2020 recovery

All change: Jeep’s mid-sized Compass is in for specification changes as part of Jeep Australia’s plans to reshape its business

‘Holistic approach’ changes planned to reverse Jeep’s Australian sales slide

10 Dec 2019


JEEP is preparing to unveil a recovery plan in the new year that will encompass every facet of its business in Australia.


Touted as the biggest change in the company’s 25 years since returning to these shores, the 360-degree overhaul will redouble the American brand’s emphasis on customer care and service, as well as revised, revamped and redesigned models offering more relevant specification for Australian consumers.


According to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia president and CEO Kevin Flynn, the exact plans will be publicly revealed early in 2020 after he consults with his dealer network.


“We’re working on a significant plan, and 2020 will be a big year for us,” he told Australian journalists at the international launch of the Jeep Gladiator in New Zealand this week.


“But, as there is a lot happening, at the beginning of next year we’re going to be taking our dealers through that first, and you’ll be seeing evidence of that (straight after).


“So, I don’t want to put too much out there right now.


"But I can absolutely assure you, it’s been a holistic approach right the way across the business.


"We understand where we’ve been weak, and what we’ve got to do to correct that.”


Mr Flynn, who was appointed to head the Australian operations in August after Steve Zanlunghi left the company to pursue other interests, revealed that the new strategy had been in place from the moment he set foot in the Port Melbourne headquarters.


He added that Jeep completely acknowledged that a total rethink across every inch of the business was crucial to reverse falling volume, including a 25 per cent slide in sales in 2019 alone that will see it post only around 5500 sales this year. 


This is down from a height of more than 30,000 in 2014.


“Our organisation is getting very fit and ready for that, and understanding the direction to where we are going,” he said.


“We need to have a new persona in the marketplace that really resonates what really Jeep is as a brand and itsrelevance in other markets.


“For me, the fit of Jeep to Australia is as strong as the fit of Jeep is to US.


"We’ve just got to untap that and with all the frustrations and things that have been in the market, we have to address them absolutely head-on, and I think we have the plan to do that.


“Three months in, the honeymoon is over. But I’ve become very engaged with the dealers ... and I’ve done a full assessment of where we are in Australia.


“One of the big things that is a driver for me is that we’re currently something like 1.2 per cent of the SUV segment, and yet we have tremendous success in other markets and we’ve had success in Australia. 


“So, we have to find that route back; we’ve got the right triggers that are going to link us again with the Australian buyer, with a level of confidence and a level of belief of who we are.


“(Being more) customer centric, and making sure our organisation is completely tuned in to what our customers need, what our dealers need, and bringing the right products and the right specifications and so forth to the market.” 


First cab off the rank is a relaunch of the Compass – a vehicle with which Mr Flynn was closely associated at his time in India, overseeing its development and production, as well as its potential as an export vehicle from a hi-tech site shared with Tata.


To better take on the best-selling Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, Jeep is expected to introduce revised versions with specifications and equipment more aligned with Australian tastes.


“Compass is going to become very relevant in the Australian market, and we’re working on that as one of the facets at the moment,” Mr Flynn said.


“It’s not properly understood, and I think we slightly missed the mark with Compass ... but that will change.”


The essential Gladiator will be released in the second quarter of next year at prices that are still to be announced, giving Jeep a strong and unique presence in one of the biggest segments in Australia – 4x4 pick-up trucks.


The big five-seater dual-cab truck is expected to target the popular Ford Ranger Raptor and top-line Mercedes-Benz X350d. 


Later next year, Jeep will unveil the next-generation Grand Cherokee, which will usher in an all-new architecture, styling and interior, as well as a crucial new seven-seater option to greatly increase the appeal of the large SUV. 


Expected to debut at the Los Angeles auto show in November before an Australian release during 2021, it will take on the redesigned Toyota Kluger and will open up 75 per cent of the large SUV segment that the current five-seater-only Grand Cherokee cannot compete in.


A little further on, the full-sized three-row Wagoneer is in the pipeline to sit above the Grand Cherokee, giving Jeep another a fresh product in Australia.


Finally, a considerable rationalisation of excess variants is expected as Jeep concentrates on bringing models that not only appeal to the larger majority of buyers, but also represent the best profit potential.


“The potential is there,” Mr Flynn said.


“We just have to get the ingredients right, the communication right, to rebuild trust and have the right products and the right specs to rebuild this. 


"We’re very, very confident we will rebuild this."

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