As the first redesigned vehicle to come out of Chrysler Group under Fiat management, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee has carried the full weight of the company's hopes for recovery since arriving in showrooms this summer.
Last month, the Grand Cherokee fully justified those hopes, powering Chrysler to a 37 percent sales increase over October 2009.
Grand Cherokee sales soared to 12,721 nearly four times greater than October 2009's total. A year ago, the previous-generation model was still on sale, and Chrysler was rebuilding inventories after its production shutdown after bankruptcy.
The Grand Cherokee's success more than doubled Jeep's sales to 28,480 for October, making Jeep the biggest seller among Chrysler's four brands.
Said Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury: “Jeep hasn't sold this many Grand Cherokees since December of 2006. If the Grand Cherokee is any indication of future Chrysler products, there is cause for optimism.
“SUVs and trucks have traditionally driven volume and profit for the domestic automakers. This is exactly the sales trend Chrysler needs right now.”
Consumer Reports magazine, which repeatedly has given Chrysler vehicles low scores in recent years, praised the Grand Cherokee this week after a road test.
“Defying the odds of a rocky gestation, the fully redesigned Grand Cherokee has turned out to be a competent and refined SUV,” Tom Mutchler, a blogger for the magazine, wrote on Monday. “The interior is nicely done, and it's quiet inside. On-road, the Jeep behaves like no Jeep before it.”
The praise was not unstinting. Mutchler wrote that the Grand Cherokee “exhibited disconcerting handling” during an emergency lane change test.
The Grand Cherokee is the opening salvo in a Chrysler product offensive for 2011. The company is bringing out 16 redesigned or significantly revamped models next year. Eleven of those will be in dealerships before the end of 2010, according to a statement.
The company is counting on those vehicles to build some sales momentum while it pushes forward with a second product offensive, due in 2012 and 2013. Those will be small and compact vehicles based on Fiat platforms.
Chrysler's three other brands haven't yet seen the benefit of reworked 2011 vehicles, and their comparatively modest sales increases reflect that. The Dodge brand, which still leads Chrysler Group through the first 10 months of this year, was up just 3 percent in October, while Ram rose 37 percent and Chrysler 29 percent.The Ram full-sized pickup is still Chrysler Group's leading seller, with 17,316 for October, up 41 percent. The Town & Country minivan paced the Chrysler brand with an 18 percent increase to 8,459 sold, while its Grand Caravan sibling led Dodge with 8,204 units, down 9 percent from a year ago.
Chrysler remains big on incentives, spending an industry-leading average of $3,629 per vehicle in October, according to TrueCar.com. That number is down 9 percent from a year ago.