TOKYO — Jeep boss Christian Meunier says his mission is to further globalize the iconic off-road company and transform its image into that of the “greenest SUV brand” in the world.
The strategy will involve leveraging synergies with PSA Group and promoting Jeep’s upcoming range of electrified vehicles, partly through a new marketing campaign.
Speaking with journalists in Tokyo by video conference last month, Meunier highlighted Jeep’s rapid international expansion on the back of brisk sales in markets such as Japan.
Jeep’s worldwide sales grew fivefold in the past decade, from just 300,000 vehicles in 2009 to around 1.5 million in 2019, he noted. Sales in Japan, Jeep’s ninth-largest market, notched a tenfold increase over that period. Japan is now the top buyer of Wranglers outside North America.
Jeep used to have just four assembly plants, all in the U.S. Now, it has 10 in six countries.
“There are many different factors that made the growth possible,” Meunier said. “But I would say there’s been a lot of investment to globalize the brand.”
Looking ahead, Meunier said he wants to continue that momentum partly by tapping benefits from the upcoming merger between PSA and Jeep parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. He declined to give details about the synergies he envisions, but he said there will be plenty.
“It’s very clear that Jeep will benefit a lot from the merger,” he said.
“There is obviously a lot of potential between platform, drivetrain, cost reduction and things like that. There is a lot of potential opportunities of synergies and manufacturing footprint.”
Jeep will increasingly pitch itself as a mean, green machine, especially on the global market, where automakers must meet more stringent emissions regulations. This year, Jeep launched the Renegade 4xe plug-in hybrid in Europe and Japan as part of a plan that also includes the electrification of the Compass and Wrangler.
But the shift is not only about compliance, Meunier said. Jeep is also touting the high torque of its electrified offerings in a performance play.
The Wrangler 4xe proved its metal in a test drive traversing the demanding Rubicon Trail, a 4×4 mecca in California’s Sierra Nevada range. It drove the whole route in full-electric mode.
Moreover, marketers hope Jeep- loving outdoorsy types will like driving in silence through nature.
“What is most important is to make our product the most capable and most exciting Jeep ever,” Meunier said. “Additional torque, driving in silence, with extra exceptional acceleration and torque — that’s the perfect fit. Jeep and electrification are meant to be together.
“Our ambition is to become the greenest SUV brand in the world.”
Jeep will try selling that image through advertising along the lines of a spot that has been released in Europe to tout the benefits of electrification in the Renegade and Compass, he said. It features a red-breasted songbird warbling over scenes of a Jeep driving in silence through a city.
Another YouTube pitch, called “Pale Blue Dot,” features scientist Carl Sagan waxing dramatic about the need to protect the environment of planet Earth, “the only home we’ve ever known.”