by Matt Konkle
Quadratec Channel Editor
Despite opening the sales year with ‘strong momentum’, things took a tumble for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in March as the coronavirus began to jolt the U.S. economy.
FCA reported its first quarter U.S. sales fell 10 percent, with only Ram finding positive traction through the first three months of 2020. Jeep fell 14 percent overall.
To combat this drop, FCA said it will implement a new sales program called ‘Drive Forward’ which offers sales incentives, as well as an easier online experience.
“Our dealers have once again stepped up as pillars of the community as they have continued to provide critical support to our customers on the road,” said FCA U.S. Head of Sales Jeff Kommor. “Many have taken extraordinary steps, ranging from enhanced sanitizing protocols for their showrooms to the offer of home delivery and other concierge services to keep consumers safe. I applaud all of them for their efforts.”
The automaker said January and February were positive sales months against last year, but those results were "more than offset" by a turbulent March when many potential customers were urged to stay home to stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, many dealerships closed showrooms because of state government orders. This resulted in all vehicle purchases coming strictly through internet sales.
FCA's quarterly sales were off by 51,657 vehicles compared with the year-earlier period. For Jeep, its Grand Cherokee led the way in first quarter numbers with 50,083, while Wrangler saw 39,668 sold. Both, though, were off 13 and 21 percent respectively from last year. Gladiator did see some continued success, moving 15,259 units during the first quarter. That marked the third consecutive quarter Gladiator has surpassed the 15,000 mark.
Besides Gladiator, the Jeep brand also had other good news. A recent poll completed by YouGov’s Brand Index showed that customers considering a Jeep vehicle purchase rose 2.6 percent in the last 30 days—amounting to about 16 percent of the potential car buyer population considering a Jeep product.
“It may be too early to tell, but the brand has long positioned itself as a rugged go-anywhere machine, which may be appealing to consumers in uncertain times,” YouGov posted. “Jeep could benefit further as gas prices are expected to slide further … making SUVs and larger vehicles attractive to the consumer.”
FCA Wednesday announced it is working to ease the process for its online vehicle purchase system through a new program called Online Retail Experience, while providing larger incentives through an initiative named ‘Drive Forward.’
”ORE is a digital retailing solution that allows customers to complete the entire vehicle purchase process online from the comfort of their own homes,” FCA said in a statement. “Not only can consumers purchase a vehicle off a dealer lot, they can conduct a vehicle trade-in, apply for credit, receive price and payment estimates and review service protection plan options.”
Under the ‘Drive Forward’ initiative, FCA brands will offer 24/7 customer support and well-qualified buyers can get 0% financing for 84 months, as well as no payments for 90 days on select 2019 and 2020 models.
“We are all one community and we can help during these unprecedented times,” said Olivier Francois, Fiat Chrysler's Chief Marketing Officer. “We want to both offer consumers support and assist them financially while we all work hand in hand toward better days. And we’ll continue to explore additional opportunities as a company to help as we all navigate our way through this difficult time together.”