Jeep eyes record year, hunts Wranglers
LOS ANGELES -- Jeep, with strong overseas sales, is on course to post record global sales in 2012.
"I'm watching it every day," said brand chief Mike Manley at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Jeep's best year was 1999, when it sold 675,494 vehicles worldwide. Through November, Jeep's U.S. sales rose 16 percent from the same period of 2011 to 434,260.
The brand is posting strong sales even though several high-volume vehicles are nearing the end of the product cycles.
The Grand Cherokee will be re-engineered for the 2014 model year, when it will be equipped with an eight-speed transmission and an optional 3.0-liter diesel engine, along with interior and exterior improvements.
The Jeep Liberty has been out of production since August while its plant in Toledo, Ohio, undergoes a $500 million expansion. The Liberty's replacement will share a platform with the 2013 Dodge Dart and feature a new powertrain combination: a 3.2-liter V-6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The Liberty replacement will arrive in dealerships in mid-2013.
Manley: Seeks capacity for derivatives
Manley confirmed that Jeep will continue to sell the Compass and Patriot compact SUVs in the United States in 2013 but said that the twin vehicles would be replaced by a single model in 2014.
The biggest challenge Jeep faces, according to Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, is making enough Wranglers to meet global demand. Marchionne told reporters that Chrysler is working feverishly to overcome capacity constraints in the portion of its Toledo Assembly Complex that assembles the Wrangler.
This year, the plant is on track to build as many as 200,000 Wranglers, well above the 150,000 capacity it was initially designed to meet when it opened in 2006. Manley said that he could sell as many as 250,000 Wranglers a year worldwide if he had the capacity to build them.
"Demand for Wrangler is off the scale," Manley said. "If I look at worldwide demand for Wrangler today, it's thousands of units above Toledo, even when we push. And that demand has been very, very consistent."
Manley said if Chrysler's manufacturing experts are successful, capacity could be found for some long-sought Wrangler derivatives, such as a diesel-powered Wrangler for North America and a Wrangler-based pickup.
"I think I've got something like 15,000 unfulfilled orders right now," Manley said. "We've never fulfilled the full demand for that vehicle."
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