Chrysler brand is getting all the buzz. Fiat is receiving credit for a bit of a comeback after its unimpressive re-launch in the U.S. market last year. And Dodge will benefit from the new Dodge Dart later this year.
So what is the Jeep brand doing for Chrysler Group these days?
Bringing home the bacon, and the Facebook fans (2 million and counting, thanks to such outreach as the recent contest that led to the Altitude model name). And serving as the leading ambassador for the Fiat-owned company as CEO Sergio Marchionne pursues his strategy of exporting U.S.-made vehicles around the world — and establishing some new manufacturing posts for the company abroad as well.
Jeep observers anticipate another robust U.S. sales report when the automaker reports March sales Tuesday, after Jeep sales increased by 30 percent in February compared with the same month a year ago. February marked the brand's 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains, with all five Jeep brand models recording double-digit sales gains, led by Grand Cherokee's 47-percent increase.
The Jeep brand, currently getting some promotional love as part of Chrysler's "Halftime in America" follow-up, easily could meet or exceed that performance for March, propelling Chrysler to another overall solid year-over-year gain as it leads the Detroit Three in percentage sales increases, while the U.S. automotive recovery gains more traction.
Meanwhile, it's a Jeep plant in Detroit where Chrysler plans to build a new Maserati SUV that will be exported to the world. And near St. Petersburg, Russia, Chrysler soon will start construction on a factory to make Jeeps, all while the company continues investing to boost quality.
"Jeep has potential as a global brand because of its unique DNA," Marchionne told the Wall Street Journal. This distinct identity gives it "the traction needed to become a global brand."
So when Fiat — which already sells its 500 in Russia — recently proposed a $1.1-billion joint venture with a Russian state-controlled bank that would produce 120,000 Jeeps a year in St. Petersburg. It would be the beachhead for a push by the Jeep brand into a Russian market now dominated by players such as Toyota's Lexus brand and BMW.
Turns out that winning wars isn't the only thing that make Jeeps useful to the interests of the good old U.S. of A.