Two months after Fiat Chrysler was forced to disavow its once-vaunted streak of consecutive year-over-year U.S. sales gains, a second -- and arguably more important -- sales streak for the automaker bit the dust.
Jeep, FCA's most valuable and globally important brand, suffered a 2.7 percent sales decline in September, its first monthly year-over-year decline since September 2013 -- the month before the then-delayed Cherokee went on sale in the U.S.
Jeep's sales decline was widespread across its lineup: Cherokee fell 12 percent; Renegade dropped 13 percent; Compass declined 16 percent; and Wrangler sales dropped 18 percent.
Just the Grand Cherokee and Patriot posted gains, with the Grand Cherokee up 18 percent and the Patriot, which soon will end production, climbing 33 percent. FCA's U.S. sales were judged against its most recent accounting of sales totals from September 2015, but even against the originally reported numbers, Jeep would have been down 1.1 percent.
So has the brightest light in FCA's crowded constellation of brands dimmed, and what would a Jeep slowdown mean after FCA's move to a pickup-and-SUV-heavy future product plan?
"I don't know that the bloom is off the rose so much, but the level of competition is very, very fierce right now," said Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst with KBB.com. "Virtually every company, both luxury and nonluxury, is coming out with all different sizes of crossovers and SUVs. That's been Jeep's sweet spot for so many years.
"The market is plateauing. When you combine increasing competition with a plateauing market, it's not surprising that they're going to have an off month."
Within their respective market segments, Jeep's sales losses in September stood out. For example, while Renegade sales dropped 13 percent, other subcompact crossovers, such as the Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, Chevy Trax and Mazda CX-3, were up by double digits. And while Cherokee and Wrangler were down, the competing Toyota 4Runner in the midsize SUV segment was up 21 percent.
Spokesmen for Jeep and FCA refused to comment for this report.