by Matt Konkle
Quadratec Channel Editor
Not even the plush, refined elegance of Jeep’s Grand Cherokee was enough this time to save the brand from another rough sales month.
Nope, despite Grand Cherokee sales jumping a record 26 percent in March against the same point last year, the Jeep brand still faltered 11 percent in March. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles itself dropped seven percent overall.
The sales retreat marked the second straight month of declines for FCA, following 11 months of sales growth that was somewhat tied to the strength of Wrangler—which saw a new generation reach the marketplace last spring.
FCA also finished the year’s first quarter down three percent, while Jeep was off seven percent and Wrangler snaked back into negative territory down 10 percent.
"The industry had a tough first quarter,” said FCA’s U.S. head of sales Reid Bigland, in a company statement. “But with spring finally starting to show its face and continued strong economic indicators, such as a boost in housing sales, lower lending rates and a strong labor market, we are confident that new vehicle sales demand will strengthen going forward."
Besides the tenaciousness of Grand Cherokee, no other Jeep vehicles reached positive numbers for the month, with the most alarming number coming from Wrangler. The bellwether in Jeep’s lineup tumbled 21 percent in March, while Renegade dropped 24 percent and Cherokee tipped 23 percent. Even Compass, which had posted solid sales numbers after a refresh in 2017, toppled 14 percent.
The Ram brand was the only one in FCA's stable to post an increase last month, up 15 percent on a 9 percent gain for Ram's pickups. That Ram truck, along with Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, still did lead the way for FCA in total sales.
For the Jeep brand, though, warmer weather usually does mean demand will pick up for the Wrangler. Plus, the impending launch of its Gladiator truck will also drive more people into dealerships, so expectations are high that the automaker will turn things around in 2019’s second quarter.