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Manley delivers “State of the Jeep Brand” speech at NAIAS

by Bill Cawthon on

A narrator intones, “Be proud of your name, for your name is what defines you. Your name is what makes you who you are: unique. And nobody can take that away from you. Not now, not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow. There is only you like there is only one of us. With everything that it means.” The words make up seven lines, which rotate 90 degrees and two circles appear, forming the familiar Jeep trademark.

With that Jeep CEO Mike Manley takes the stage. Recalling the cattle stampede staged three years ago, Manley recalled that it was a challenge to avoid the sharp horns but, at the time, the folks from Chrysler didn’t know they would not be able to avoid the hazards ahead.

“Today, Chrysler is a very different company and striving to become a great company. It was only 14 months ago that we at Chrysler Group laid out our plans from a brand and product perspective that would start this company on its journey: a journey of recovery. Y’know, and many at the time commentated that those plans were ambitious, stretching, and that was certainly true: they were and they absolutely needed to be.”

“But what was also clear was that the Jeep brand had a significant role to play. Frankly, it’s no stretch to say the Jeep brand reflects what America is all about. Probably more than any other brand out there. Ingenuity, reinvention, can-do attitude, and becoming all that you can be to the fullest extent of your abilities.

“But Jeep is also a brand that lets us believe in possibilities. It lets us do what seems impossible. Jeep helps us realize some of the most important things in life. It enables and facilitates our dreams of adventure. And, like no other brand, Jeep both takes you there and gets you back.

“Seventy years ago, Jeep vehicles, as you know, helped the world emerge from a period of war. And, really from that point onwards, they’ve enabled ordinary people to follow their dreams of taking extraordinary journeys through life. The vehicles we make don’t just give you the ability to go from Point A to Point B, they provide a mindset that’s all about freedom for the soul. They help you say who you are and where you want to be.

“So I truly speak on my behalf and on behalf of all of my entire Jeep team when I say it’s an absolute privilege to be here as part of this great story.”

While he played down comparisons with 2009, Manley said 2010 was a good year, including the introduction of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and the achieving of promises made in November 2009.

Manley then delivered what he called a “State of the Jeep Brand Update.” Jeep is the company’s truly global brand: it’s sold in more than 120 countries. International sales increased 24% worldwide and 26% in the U.S. In December, Jeep had its best retail sales month since May 2008, putting its recovery ahead of the industry as a whole. [Note: During the period from 2001-2010, Jeep retained a higher percentage of its sales than any domestic brand except Cadillac.]

Responding to customer feedback, new models of the Liberty were created, the Patriot received much-needed upgrades and the Wrangler got a whole new interior and body-colored hard top for the Sahara. From a sales perspective, Wrangler worldwide sales grew by 26%, the second-highest improvement of any Jeep model.

Manley said the biggest news was the new Grand Cherokee. Describing the new Grand Cherokee as the most luxurious Jeep ever as well as the most capable, he said the timing could not have been better for the renewed interest in SUVs. Responding to demand in the premium market, the Overland Summit has been introduced as the new top-of-the-line. Manley described the Overland Summit as the “most luxurious, distinctive and comprehensively equipped Jeep ever.” In December, Grand Cherokee reached its highest monthly retail sales volume in over four years.

Introducing the new Jeep Compass, Manley noted customer comments on the former model included, “Is it really a true Jeep?” As a new red Compass rolled onto the stage, Manley said the new Compass “completely” addresses those concerns with a new face and a purposeful new attitude. The Compass can be equipped with Freedom Drive II package and wear the Jeep “Trail Rated” badge. The Compass is now the most capable small SUV on the market.

2011 is the 70th Anniversary of the initial production of the Jeep and Chrysler has created a unique 70th Anniversary edition trim, paint and badging package for each Jeep model.

Manley closed the presentation, saying, “When I reflect on the 70th year of the great American Jeep I wouldn’t really be able to, or dare, to predict what features you’re going to find in seventy years’ time. But I am absolutely certain of one thing: they will continue to be the most capable vehicle in their class.”

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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