Jeep’s global president Christian Meunièr has conceded the company "messed up" in Australia, but is confident it can become a top-10 brand here.
Speaking to local journalists during an online conference from the United States, Meunièr (pictured above) said he was "heartbroken" to see the brand downgraded here, after its surge in popularity a decade ago spurred on by the iconic ‘I bought a Jeep’ ad campaign.
“We messed up,” he admitted. “We’re fixing it, and we’re going to take care of you.”
Meunièr, who has led Jeep since May 2019 after a short stint as global president of Infiniti, said he’s a lot more upbeat about the future after seeing changes being implemented under FCA Australia Managing Director and CEO Keven Flynn.
“I have spent quite a lot of time with the team there with Kevin, and I’m very pleased that all the things that we talked about when I was in Australia and New Zealand have been implemented,” Meunièr said.
“Obviously the pandemic has been a disaster at one point in time at the beginning of the year and had really slowed down the ramp-up and the implementation of the plan, but I think the team has been able to overcome it.
“I was in Australian in February just before the pandemic started spreading, and we launched the plan with the dealers who were really pumped up, and they believed in the plan and I think we’re on the right track.”
That plan, says Flynn, is rebuilding the Jeep brand in Australia in a way that’s sustainable.
“We want to rebuild this business and not have it at risk of falling over because it grew too fast, or it was maximising opportunity from exchange rates and those type of things,” he said from Melbourne.
“That’s where it broke before – we went up on big volume, quality probably wasn’t where it is today, and we were not equipped or had the appetite to really fix that.
"That’s completely changed here, so I believe we’ve got the foundation. The key thing for us is building a sustainable business and, with the volume of vehicles we sell, we are capable of delivering first-class service of this to our clientele.”
Flynn said rebuilding customer trust was also a core part of the strategy.
“It’s all been about rebuilding trust, and that’s why we’re seeing this change in momentum.
“I am absolutely focused now on after-sales care, technical competence and making sure that the elements we’ve put in we can actually soundly deliver."
Meunièr said Australia is considered a key market for Jeep, which is why the company committed to testing the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee in Australia with an emphasis on tweaking the local chassis tune and towing ability.
He added that Jeep was committed to right-hand-drive markets with new products including electrified models, including the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4XE plug-in hybrid.
“I have all the evidence, all the research that Australians love Jeep, they love the brand, they like the product, but there were some issues that we had fixed.
"We’re going to keep being really focused on fixing the product and making it very, very appropriate for your market.
“The third component is the customer experience. We need to treat the customers well, take care of them whenever there is an issue they needed to be heard they need to be listened to, and I think if we do the three things the sky’s the limit for Jeep in Australia.
“Top-10 for me is a no-brainer.”
The online roundtable occurred three days before the official announcement of the Stellantis merger between FCA and Group PSA. When asked about the impact of the merger on Jeep, Meunièr said it was too soon to know the impact on individual brands.
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