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Positive signs for Jeep Australia after new plan to regain consumer trust

Jeep’s best-selling model is ageing Grand Cherokee, but its replacement is reportedly delayed due to the global pandemic.

Jeep Australia is starting to see positive first signs after implementing its new plan earlier this year to regain consumer trust and reverse its slowing sales.

Speaking to CarsGuide, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia boss Kevin Flynn said customer sentiment is now starting to shift, but that the Jeep brand still has a long way to go before it is where he wants it to be.

“We’ve seen the negative drop, the neutral grow and the positive grow, and that’s exactly where you need it, so we’re pleased with that,” he said.

“We’ve made the foundations far more solid than they’ve been before, or certainly over the past four or five years.

“We always knew that awareness was high, but that consideration was low, and it was the consideration we needed to change, and so we needed to give people the opportunity to connect with us.

“We’re seeing the sentiment change.”

However, the strategy, as detailed earlier this year and includes initiatives such as adding more equipment to model grades, simplifying choice, reducing the price of parts and improving customer service, is yet to reverse Jeep’s declining sales.

For the first seven months of 2020, Jeep has sold 2834 units, a decrease of 15.8 per cent compared to the same period last year.

However, Jeep’s figures are tracking better than the industry average decrease of 19.2 per cent brought about in part because of the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Flynn said Jeep’s future looks positive, especially on the back of the recent launch of the Gladiator pick-up and the aforementioned rationalisation of the Compass – now the brand’s cheapest model after the discontinuation of the Renegade earlier this year.

“It started to probably turn, I think our June result was great considering basically all of our Gladiators were in and out, we took far more orders than actually delivered units,” he said.

“We’re enjoying a good July; our stock is very healthy. We’re getting into a fitter place … but it’s not an overnight (job).

“I think the simplifying of the range, adding specification, the Compass is a great example … now it’s very competitive in terms of its price and the level of spec.

“It’s a great product and it deserves more consideration, and once you get consideration and people try it, they realise what a great car it is.”

Future products are also expected to reinvigorate interest in the Jeep brand, with rumours pointing towards a three-row SUV and new-generation Grand Cherokee coming soon, though the latter has reportedly been delayed due to the pandemic.

Mr Flynn would be not drawn on the Australian market introduction of any future Jeep products to fill out the current five-model line-up, but said that “any segments that we’re not in that sells a decent volume is worth looking at”.

Regardless, Mr Flynn said that consumers were now more actively engaged with the Jeep and understanding that the brand is taking steps to repair its reputation.

“Everything I said we would do, we have done, we’ve not missed one heartbeat in delivering every element of the strategy,” he said.

“We put a whole team on purely monitoring social media, and particularly monitoring the comments, and if somebody has got an issue, how are we able to jump on that, elevate it, and get it sorted.

“And people are holding us to it, they’ve gone on the website, they’ve read what we’ve laid out, and they’re holding us to it.”