Jeep becomes the focus of business for Fiat-Chrysler this year and beyond, with CEO Sergio Marchionne setting an ambitious target of 1 million global sales of Jeep SUVs in 2014. That would be a huge, 37 percent jump from 2012.
Having cleared away housekeeping obstacles such as the complete unification of Fiat and Chrysler and a now-ended federal investigation of the safety of several old Jeep models in rear-end collisions, Marchionne has been freed to execute his plan for filling out the rest of the Jeep product lineup and turning the icon of American SUVs into a truly global brand.
Elements of the march to 1 million will include strong demand for the new Jeep Cherokee, the mid-size SUV re-introduced in a new version late last year that finally filled the brand's gaping need for a top-notch vehicle in one of the hottest segments of the American market.
Also incremental, Marchionne hopes, will be increased production and sales of the larger Grand Cherokee, Jeep's top seller last year—but still supply-constrained because of some production bottlenecks at a Detroit plant that finally have been eased.
"And we've got the small Jeep coming out of Europe," Marchionne told Automotive News, pointing to some late-year sales for the unnamed compact SUV to debut at the Geneva auto show in March.
Down the road, Jeep also hopes to begin building vehicles in China within a year or two, depending on how fast the Chinese government finally approves its plans. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Marchionne would like to revive what would be the largest Jeep, with a new version of the venerable Grand Wagoneer nameplate, within a couple of years as well.
In the meantime, the only way to reach 1 million sales this year is to come fast out of the gate. So among other things, Jeep has launched a new 30-second commercial in conjuction with X Games Aspen last week, in its 11th year of sponsorship of the ESPN event.
And, of course, there's a chance that the Jeep brand and vehicles could get some play on Super Bowl Sunday when Chrysler has promised it will advertise—but, per its recent tradition, hasn't indicated which brand or brands will get the attention.