Jesse Snyder
Jesse Snyder
Opinion Page Editor

Ya gotta love those new models

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Jeep is hot, hot, hot. Volkswagen is cold as ice.

Nothing helps like fresh product on the floor. And nothing aches quite the way that an aging lineup does.

In a perfect world, every automaker would schedule product introductions so every year a new model would draw buyers into showrooms. But programs get added, scrapped, delayed, hastened, even revamped and restarted. Pretty soon, product cadence gets lumpy.

Voila, our product cadence poster children. With a new Cherokee and refreshed Grand Cherokee, Jeep jumps 58 percent to post its best-ever month in May. Lacking freshness, VW falls 15 percent.

Yeah, yeah. I’m ignoring the added capacity for Jeep Wrangler. And how last winter’s storms made folks vow to get four-wheel drive. And how Chrysler stopped making the Jeep Liberty months before starting Cherokee production, skewing year-over-year comparisons. And I’m ignoring how this VW lull follows several years of big-time growth. Write me a letter.

But this year, these brands are headed in opposite directions. They are the extreme brands of 2014.

Just look at the numbers.

In May, Jeep more than doubled VW brand sales, 70,203 to 32,163. Last May, Jeep was about 6,400 units ahead.

Year to date, VW is down 12 percent in an up market. Jeep is 49 percent higher.

A year earlier, Jeep’s five-month lead was less than 15,000. This year, Jeep is up more than 125,000.

The brands are opposites within their own groups. Jeep lifts Chrysler Group. VW crushes sister brands Audi, Porsche and Bentley.

So far this year, Jeep has provided 91,000 of Chrysler Group’s 97,391-unit growth. With Jeep, the group is up 13 percent. Without it, Chrysler is 1 percent higher. Jeep has replaced Dodge as the group’s best-selling brand and ranks third among Detroit 3 brands behind only Ford and Chevy.

So far this year, Audi and Bentley have double-digit gains and Porsche’s 7 percent rise outpaces the market. But VW brand has lost almost 20,000 units, so the group is off 11,267, a 5 percent loss.

This year, Jeep has passed Dodge and Kia to become the No. 7 U.S. brand behind Hyundai. Volkswagen fell to No. 13, having been passed by Ram.

It’s still in the first half of the year. But the trend is clear.

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@crain.com.

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