DETROIT -- Global sales of Jeep-branded vehicles reached a record 701,626 units in 2012, despite the elimination of one nameplate.
The global sales figure topped the brand's previous record of 675,494, set in 1999, and was a 19 percent gain over 2011.
The global record puts the brand a full year ahead of schedule on the five-year sales plan Chrysler Group laid out in November 2009, when executives ambitiously predicted that Jeep sales would reach 800,000 units globally by 2014.
"It's good news," Mike Manley, head of the Jeep brand, said Tuesday. "I have to say, though, that I'm not increasing my target for 2014. It would be a phenomenal achievement for the whole Jeep team if we got there earlier."
Sales in the United States -- Jeep's largest market, accounting for two-thirds of global volume -- reached 474,131, up 13 percent from 2011. U.S. sales were about 80,000 units shy of the record set in 1999.
Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne views Jeep and Alfa Romeo as the combined companies' two strongest global brands, and has said strong Jeep sales were a key to Chrysler's profitability. Jeep's projected 800,000 units would account for the largest brand share of the 2.8 million vehicles that Chrysler plans to deliver worldwide in 2014.
Jeep's top sellers worldwide last year were the Grand Cherokee, which posted 223,196 units globally, and the Wrangler, at 194,142.
Even Jeep's compact crossovers, the Compass and Patriot, had record years, with Compass sales reaching a global peak of 103,321 units, despite a 16 percent sales decline in the United States. Patriot had its best sales year in the United States, up 14 percent to 62,010 units.
The Jeep Liberty, the brand's mid-sized SUV, ended production in August and will be replaced this year by another vehicle. The brand has also announced that it intends to import a small, subcompact Jeep from Europe this year.