Dealers say Meunier's global experience should be an asset as Jeep, an American staple, looks to boost its performance abroad — particularly in China. Meunier was with Nissan Motor Co. since 2002, revamping the Nissan Division's marketing structure and giving its U.S. regional sales operations more decision-making authority before moving over to Infiniti, but he had been in the luxury brand's top job only since January.
Wes Lutz, who owns Extreme Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Jackson, Mich., said Meunier was an "interesting choice" to run Jeep.
"I think that the international experience is going to bode well for that position," Lutz said. "As a corporation, we need to get that brand viable and selling well all over the world."
China will be a challenge for Meunier. Jeep is FCA's leading brand in the world's largest vehicle market but, like many competitors there, it's facing increased pressure.
FCA's sales last year in China declined 28 percent to 209,000 vehicles while revenue slid 17 percent to $3 billion.
Michael Dunne, CEO of ZoZo Go, a consulting firm that advises American companies on China, said Jeep is struggling in that country because of branding and its decision to pursue the mainstream market instead of the luxury segment, which has been more robust and stable.
FCA began China production of the Jeep Cherokee in October 2015, followed shortly after by the Jeep Renegade. More recently, it added production of the Jeep Compass and China-specific Jeep Commander/Grand Commander while continuing to import the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Dunne says a smarter play would have been to lead with the Grand Cherokee, which is considered a luxury vehicle, and go downmarket rather than up. Jeep also is behind regarding development and deployment of all-electric vehicles, which China has made a priority for automakers in the country.
"China is a challenging space," Brinley said, "and it's interesting because Jeep has been there for a long time. One of the challenges that automakers are facing in China is that as the market matures and that buyer matures, you have to start to understand that buyer a little more carefully."
Michael Wayland contributed to this report.