Make / Model Search

News - Market Insight

Market Insight: If only they would buy a Jeep

Big seller: Australia’s most popular large SUV in 2014 was the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which sold 16,582 units against 16,112 for the Toyota Prado.

Australian Jeep sales go from gangbusters to almost bust in 10 years. What happened?


Click to see larger images

22 Jan 2024

IT MAY be difficult to believe now, but Jeep not so long ago sold more large SUVs under a single nameplate than Toyota did and had a year in which its total sales exceeded 30,000 units here.


Last year – in a record sales year for the industry as a whole – Jeep only sold 4634 vehicles, about 15 per cent of what it achieved in its heyday of 2014.


Jeep was even selling more vehicles when it returned to the Australian market 30 years ago. What happened, and can Jeep improve on the current low volumes it sells here?


The 2014 sales year was not Jeep’s first moment in the sun in terms of respectable Australian sales volumes.


When the iconic US brand returned to the Australian market with much fanfare in 1994 including the advertising line ‘There’s Only One Jeep’, it was with an already outdated 10 year-old design, the XJ Cherokee.


Despite this, the XJ sold like hotcakes, with 4913 sales in 1995, its first full year on sale (and a 11.1 per cent stake of the All Terrain Wagon segment).


While this was barely more than a third of LandCruiser 80 Series sold that year, in major Australian metro areas during the mid-1990s, you would see XJ Cherokees on the road daily.


Even with the addition of TJ Wrangler and ZG Grand Cherokee (which confused buyers, as ZG was meant as an XJ replacement and was an almost identical size), by 1997 Jeep held only about 10 per cent of the all-terrain wagon market, with a sales total barely more than 7000 units.


Jeep was gaining a reputation for indifferent quality control and not especially strong dealer support. With an influx of more polished competitors, the brand lost its momentum and pressed on for the next decade and a half, never selling much more than around 5000 units a year.


Yet from 2010, Jeep volumes rose and by 2014, Jeep seemed to be on a roll. New or relatively new products (some greatly benefiting from the by-then defunct relationship with Daimler) and a very advantageous exchange rate resulted in cheaper, better-equipped Jeeps here.


Also helping were clever mass-marketing campaigns like ‘I Bought a Jeep’.


The brand hit a historical high point in Australia with a total of 30,408 new Jeeps leaving showrooms in 2014, up 37 per cent on 2013. The most popular large SUV that year was the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which sold 16,582 copies against 16,112 for the Toyota Prado.


It was close, but Jeep got the numbers, helped by lots of standard equipment and attractive pricing. That year, the Grand Cherokee started at $43,000 before on-road costs for the 2WD petrol and reached $71,000 + ORC for the comprehensively equipped Overland diesel or petrol (and even the SRT-8 performance flagship was only $77,000 + ORC).


Meanwhile, the Toyota Prado was $63,190-$91,590 + ORC could not tow as much and nothing like the breadth of models or performance. A new 2014 Cherokee only helped Jeep’s sales volume uptick, adding almost 4000 units to that year’s tally.


Yet the advantageous exchange rate did not last, with Grand Cherokee variants climbing between $2000 and $8000 in the price lists just two years later and further price rises to come.


Then Jeep reliability came into question again, this time in a much bigger way. By 2015, the Grand Cherokee had amassed 11 Australian mandatory recall notices, with problems ranging from the potential for fuel pump relay failure, unwanted side airbag or seat airbag deployment, ABS brake or stability control failure and poor braking performance due to brake booster corrosion.


Some 10 further recalls later, the WK/WK2Grand Cherokee has earned the title of Australia’s most-recalled vehicle.


In 2015, Fiat Chrysler Australia’s then president and CEO Pat Dougherty said the company had stock issues and admitted that the recalls – and the way they were handled – hurt sales.


He claimed at the time that Jeep had improved the way in which recalls were managed: “We’ve made a very concerted effort to change our customer care approach, how we manage our customers across the country, and how our dealers manage the customers.”


It did not seem to help as Jeep sales continued their assertive slide downwards. In 2023, Jeep sold 4634 vehicles in Australia, down 30.4 per cent on 2022, and its lowest sales year since GFC-addled 2009 when the company sold 4193 units.


The most-affordable Jeep today is the small-segment Compass, which starts at $41,400 + ORC for the Night Eagle and is around $5K to $15K more than competitors. With the Cherokee model in runout, Jeep no longer produces a contender for the vital medium SUV market.


A new Grand Cherokee, at $77,950 + ORC for the entry-level Night Eagle, is almost twice the price the 2014 model range started at.


It also no longer has the 3500kg towing capacity or diesel engine that helped sell so many of the previous model, and that only keeps loyal WK/WK2 diesel owners wondering what else they can buy.


The iconic Wrangler, not so long ago starting at a relatively affordable $40K, is now a minimum $80K-plus luxury proposition.


New models to arrive in 2024 might help bump sales up from 2023’s low (Australia should see a turbo-petrol four-cylinder Wrangler and the all-new Avenger, a small battery-electric SUV).


While there was only one Jeep in 1994, and lots of people bought a Jeep in 2014, in 2024 there are many, many other SUV choices, and arguably better ones offering superior value for money.


For now, at least, the market seems to agree.

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Market Insight articles

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here