Jeep Standalone Dealerships May Be the Future, but Maybe Not for Long
Jeep has been under the FCA banner for many years, along with Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram. But the automaker’s customer is sufficiently different than that of the other brands. Jeep’s customer is very into customizing. To do so, that customer is typically willing to pay for small and large upgrades alike. It is not unusual for a Jeep Wrangler to be sold, and then be back in the shop immediately receiving a lift kit, or wild bumpers with winches. Even buyers of the Renegade have numerous customization options. So, now it seems that FCA is doing something more specific for the offroad brand’s customer.
Jeep is already trying to stand up on its own
According to the Automotive News, FCA seems to be rolling out a new initiative to make the Jeep brand stand on its own. The effort seems to be headed toward having showrooms with no other brands sharing floor space with the offroaders. After all, the Pacifica customer is less likely to spend time and money in the dealership ordering suspension or body customization parts, while the majority of Jeep owners do, or at least dream about it.
“After spending a decade consolidating its brands under one dealership roof, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been seeking exclusivity in recent years for its highly profitable Jeep brand in certain markets. The automaker is looking to grow Jeep by creating unique shopping experiences for some of its most critical buyers, who continue to drive the brand forward despite an ongoing health crisis. – Automotive News”
Unique Jeep shopping experiences
The unique shopping experiences that the automaker seeks to have, are to be tailored around the Jeep offroad experience and reputation. That means a retail environment that not only handles the vehicle sale and upgrades, but also Jeep branded gear such as shirts, hats, and outdoor or offroading equipment. All of this in a showroom handled by people familiar with the Jeep experience because they themselves are Jeep people.
“The automaker hopes having Jeep-centered retail environments, staffed by people who know the ins and outs of the lineup, can help the brand grow by appealing to a wider range of customers. FCA is looking to put more of a focus on Jeep as it prepares for a product offensive that includes the premium Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, along with a redesigned Grand Cherokee.” – Automotive News
Into Jeeps, just like the customers are
Mike Downey, Vice President of Fort Collins Jeep in Colorado, works at one of the standalone Jeep dealerships. He thinks there is a difference with the Jeep-specific environment. About his customers he says,
“I think they appreciate the fact that it’s specialized [and] makes them feel better about doing business. It just sends a message that we’re all about Jeep — we’re into Jeeps, just like the customers are. I think it gives them a little more confidence in us.”
Cult-like following for the offroad auto manufacturer
Overall, a move to set Jeep as a standalone brand makes sense. Jeep experts concentrating solely on the legendary brand’s products is reasonable. It is much like an Apple store will have experts traines only with Apple Ipads or Macbooks, not HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, etc.. Also similar to Apple, Jeep does have an almost cult-like following.
Standalone Jeep stores or showrooms also offer the opportunity to elevate the brand. Although the offroad brand has been growing year-over-year, a Jeep only opportunity can sound more appealing to dealership franchises looking to add another rooftop without having to also add the other FCA brands. So, Jeep can certainly be attractive by itself and consequently end up achieving more business than when lumped in with the other FCA brands.
The best-laid plans may mean nothing
The best-laid plans of mice and men may not mean anything, however. Next year there will be no FCA. So, any plans for Jeep will likely be re-evaluated under the new Stellantis ownership. As is common with business in general, no matter how good a plan may sound under old ownership, new ownership may have other directions planned. For example, it has been floated on and off through the years that Jeep was a strong enough brand to stand on its own. So, the thought in the past was that Jeep could be sold off and thereby bring money immediately into the coffers of the ownership. That may be an enticing idea for Stellantis as well. One that could lend credence to the idea of standalone dealerships, but for the purpose of the ease to disassociate from Jeep once it is sold off.
Jeep standalone dealerships and showrooms may be the future of the brand. However, no matter how successful the brand is with the current smattering of standalone stores they already have, they will still have to face the new Stellantis ownership soon. So, at this point, it is uncertain if the standalone Jeep initiative is something that will continue, or be hustled for a quick spinoff to somebody else later on. In either case, the automotive world is watching and wondering.