The underlying issue with Wrangler, which I’ve been saying since JL came out, is that FCA focused too much on the things that gave it widespread appeal and not enough on the things that made Wrangler unique. And to some extent the same can be said of Jeep at large.
Everything that was new with JL had to do with improving daily comfort, convenience and efficiency, but hardly anything was done to keep Wrangler the master of the trails.
This helped FCA jack up prices and lineup its pockets, but has had two fateful long-term consequences:
- It attracted a new, more affluent buyer in exchange for the traditional Jeep buyer. This meant higher upfront sales and transaction prices, but a less loyal customer base.
- It left Wrangler vulnerable to competitive assaults. After a decade dithering on-and-off, Ford finally decided to launch Bronco when Wrangler looked most vulnerable. If you look at Bronco’s propositioning, it seeks to keep luring Jeep farther down the path of daily comfort and convenience, less so chase it down the off-road trails.
And Jeep has apparently bit the bait. The problem is that this leads down to a crowded field, just when Jeep buyers are less loyal and have more options than ever.
After FCA spent an entire decade putting all its eggs in Jeep, I wonder what Stellantis’s Plan B is going to be.