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Is FCA too dependent on Jeep?

by Bill Cawthon on

In his December sales forecast, Kelley Blue Book analyst Tim Fleming wrote:

Fiat Chrysler has become increasingly dependent on Jeep to drive sales growth, and December should be the best month on record for the Jeep brand. However, combined sales year-to-date of other Fiat Chrysler brands are slightly down in volume.”


For the 11 months ending on November 30, Jeep has accounted for 38% of total FCA US sales. That is probably a record share for Jeep.

Jeep’s growing share of the pie isn’t really news. Looking at the period from 1999, Chrysler’s best sales year ever, through the end of 2014, one sees the growth began back in 2005, the first time since 1999 that Jeep managed to take more than 21% of total Chrysler volume. At the end of 2014, Jeep’s share stood at 34% of total sales.


As Mr. Fleming noted, combined sales of Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Fiat and Alfa Romeo are down by 1.4%. However, the red ink is entirely due to Fiat’s 9% year-to-date (YTD) shortfall; sales of Chrysler brands are up by 2%. (All figures in this article are U.S. sales.)

In addition, year to date Chrysler and Dodge sales were heavily impacted by the long shutdown of the Windsor Assembly Plant for the changeover to the new minivan. This left combined Chrysler and Dodge sales 82,768 units behind 2014.

The end of the Avenger meant another 39,621-unit hit for Dodge, compared to the first 11 months of 2014. It is difficult to measure the actual impact, given that some “lost sales” may have ended up as sold Dodge Darts or Chrysler 200s.


Should Jeep’s growth compared to the rest of FCA be a cause for concern?

Not really; Ford has done quite well despite being dependent on a single line, the F-Series pickup, for nearly 30% of the company’s total sales.

Furthermore, Jeep has been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time with competitive new products. As Americans have switched to crossovers and SUVs, Jeep has grown to become the top brand in the market’s hottest segment.

But it is not doom and gloom at the other Chrysler brands. Despite a disappointing November, year-to-date sales of the Chrysler 200 have grown more than any other mid-size sedan. Charger sales are still ahead of last year, as are sales of the Dart and Challenger. There’s every reason to believe the new Chrysler minivan will put FCA back at the top of the segment.

To keep the future bright, FCA US needs to pull forward some upgrades instead of pushing them back. The Ram pickup, for all its excellent qualities, will need to be refreshed again to compete with newer models from Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Nissan. On Tuesday, Nissan announced that the Titan XD diesel will start at $4,000 less than the Ram 1500 diesel, and Ram sales have leveled off to the point it is the slowest-growing pickup brand from the Detroit Three.

Next month, FCA will show its next investor plan for the US. That may be when we find out if all the eggs are being put into Jeep’s basket.

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, 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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