Indeed, Jeep is cruising to its eighth consecutive year of sales growth in Japan. Its annual sales volume wallowed at around 1,000 vehicles in 2009. But by 2016, sales reached 9,388, helped by the addition of the subcompact Renegade, a pint-sized offering that proved perfect for Japan's narrow streets. This year, FCA targets sales of 10,000, with additional lifts expected from the upcoming arrival of a new Compass.
The momentum should continue into 2018 with an updated Wrangler. Japan is the world's fourth-largest market for the Wrangler.
But the success — modest as it is — has not come easy. FCA has worked hard to keep Jeep on an upward trajectory. Among its efforts:
All Jeep models are offered as right-hand drive.
Drivetrains were tweaked to meet Japan's eco-car incentives, a U.S.-brand first.
Models are fitted with folding side mirrors for Japan's tight parking lots.
Jeep offers factory-installed Japanese navigation systems.
It has more than doubled its local marketing and advertising budget since 2010. And Jeep is expanding its dealer network, with plans to add two stores this year bringing its Japan total to 82. That is up from just 52 in 2010.
Meanwhile, Jeep has embarked on a two-year campaign to rebuild or refurbish more than 50 showrooms nationwide by the end of 2018.
The network overhaul aims for a more premium, modern image. Jeep doesn't wave the American flag or conjure Route 66 nostalgia to sell vehicles, as U.S. brands often do overseas.
"It's more about the brand and less about the origin," says Haggstrom, a native of Sweden. "In previous stores, it was very much the U.S. dealership transplanted in Japan."