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How Jeep Australia plans to reverse its slowing sales

Though Jeep Australia says have hit a 10-year low, the Gladiator ute is expected to be a big booster for the brand.

Jeep Australia sales hit a 10-year low last year, recording just 5519 sales, but the brand’s new boss is a man with a plan to change its fortunes.

Speaking to CarsGuide, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia’s new boss Kevin Flynn conceded that the SUV brand is struggling to remain relevant in the competitive local market, but said a new plan is underway to overcome Jeep’s hurdles.

“We have great product, and I think fundamentally, our challenges in the market are not product orientated, they’re actually our organisation and the way we run about the business, and particularly how we liaise and look after the customers,” he said.

“What’s the blockage, what’s holding us back, how come we’ve gone through this period of decline?

“What is clear to me when I’ve looked at all the areas and spoken to a lot of people is the growth back five years ago was just astronomic – and off the back of a number of really good things done –but at the same time, it was circumstance, pricing, exchange rates, the market economy, everything.

“What it would seem to is me that, as that explosion happened, as an organisation, we didn’t spend enough time and resources on customer care.”

As part of the changes, Mr Flynn will streamline the Jeep range from 39 variants across its Compass, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler to around 25, removing the low-selling entry grades.

As a result, the point of entry to the Jeep line-up is expected to come up in price as mid-tier grades such as the Night Eagle become the cheapest variants.

“What I’m trying to do with the team is actually get a simpler approach to the range of vehicles,” Mr Flynn said.

“We’ve also looked at where the bulk of sales is coming from … and that is not in the entry trim level, it’s actually (in higher grades).”

“I think we have our head around where we want to be with the product.”

Of note, the Renegade small SUV has already been discontinued due to unfavourable market conditions, while the Gladiator ute is due to land in local showrooms around the middle of the year.

Mr Flynn said one of the other things to address in turning around Jeep’s fortunes is its technical capability, and to that end, a ‘flying doctor’-type service is being rolled out to dealerships, where highly qualified technicians can quickly come in to diagnose and fix customer issues.

A renewed focus on aftersales care and service will also be key, according to Mr Flynn, who has hired a new set of directors to get to the root of customer and dealer dissatisfaction.

An analysis of Jeep’s 17,000-strong parts catalogue is also underway, with the aim of reducing the cost of repair to customers.

Finally, capped price servicing, which Mr Flynn identified as “a gap”, will also rollout to all new vehicles to complement the existing five-year warranty and lifetime roadside assist schemes.

“We’re really focusing on customer retention and really give the customers a reason (to come back), we’ll be putting packages together for existing customers as well,” he said.

“We’re part of a global program and we’ve got a role to play.

“Let’s be honest, Australia has not been playing that role for a period of time, so we’ve got to get back there.

“But we can’t just get back there by putting some numbers on the page, we got to get back there by convincing our owner base and prospective customers here that actually, you can trust us.

A similar plant is also expected to be rolled out across other brands under the FCA umbrella, including Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Chrysler.