After backsliding from its Canadian sales peak, Jeep has its first pickup and a new Canadian boss intent on rebuilding the brand in his home country.
The new Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup will help lead a rebound for the brand in Canada, said Jim Morrison, the newly minted head of Jeep North America.
“It’s a purpose-built, very capable truck,” he said in an exclusive interview with Automotive News Canada. “I was involved with the project when I was previously with Jeep. There’s one in my parking spot now.”
The native of Fredericton, N.B., who led Fiat Chrysler’s Ram brand in North America for three years, said he is focused on rebuilding Jeep volume. It’s a recovery that would go a long way toward lifting FCA Canada Inc. from its own sales trough.
The automaker was alone among its big rivals in recording a double-digit (16 per cent) sales decline last year, and this year’s volume is off another 16 per cent through June as the industry skids through a 16-month losing streak.
Jeep, meanwhile, has fallen from its Canadian high of 83,086 sales in 2016. The brand — FCA Canada’s second largest behind Ram — managed a gain of 1.8 per cent last year, to 71,583, before tumbling 15 per cent in the first six months of 2019.
Morrison, interviewed in the second week of his new job, said year-over-year sales comparisons for Jeep are tough because last year FCA was selling off old models, such as the previous Wrangler.
But he noted that Jeep sales were up nearly one per cent in June.
“We’re getting beyond that [slump], with the Grand Cherokee doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the brand,” he said.
It has been the only Jeep vehicle to increase sales this year, by a robust 28 per cent. Although Morrison declined to elaborate, he said it will be refreshed. Sibling publication Automotive News projects a redesign in 2020.
The challenge with Wrangler, he said, is not price since there are seldom incentives on them.
“It’s really just the availability with them. This time last year, we had two plants building Wranglers. Now we have two plants [both] building the Wrangler and the new Gladiator, but it’s just coming online and there’s only a handful yet at dealers.”
Jim McManes, owner of McManes Automotive Group in Calgary, said Morrison has his work cut out for him.
“Obviously, he has impressed those guys down there,” said McManes, referring to leaders at the company’s Detroit-area U.S. headquarters.
“It’s a big job, though.”
But Morrison’s Canadian roots bode well, McManes said.
“He’s a Canadian guy. He’s earned his dues. We’ll see where it goes.”
DETAIL IS IN THE DETAILS