- Airborne troubleshooters for Jeep dealers
- Huge parts price overhaul
- But is it enough for Jeep?
Jeep has set up a crack team of mobile technicians whose only job is to eradicate pesky problems that plague Jeep owners – and the new boss of FCA in Australia, Kevin Flynn, plans to work them hard.
From its halcyon days of the early part of the decade, Jeep’s reputation for aftermarket service and parts – along with its sales – have slumped, with the brand placed almost last in surveys that rank brands in dealer satisfaction.
As well, Jeep Wrangler reliability questions haven't stopped with the launch of its new JL model, while Jeep Grand Cherokee reliability is a common theme in WhichCar reviews.
Jeep boss is getting the message
Flynn is a stalwart of the global industry with a background in dealership management and servicing, and he’s aware of the challenge that he faces turning Jeep’s fortunes around in Australia.
“If you just look at the numbers we were a force, but that force got depleted over the last four years or so,” he told WhichCar. “But in doing that, it's almost as if infrastructure capability was [up] here and that remained constant. Success went like that [vertical]. And this just created a vacuum.”
Jeep posted more than 30,000 sales in 2014 off the back of strong sales for its large Grand Cherokee, but have since slid dramatically, posting just 5,519 sales in 2019.
While exchange rate dramas and aging products were partly to blame, Flynn admits that he’s been told in no uncertain terms where the company has gone wrong.
“Wherever I went, whoever I spoke to, [they] were quite keen on the history lesson and the consistent message. There weren’t very many versions of it,” he said wryly.
“And my evaluation when I talked to dealers, talked to customers and looked around is actually I would say 80 percent of the challenges we created for ourselves are in the after-sales arena, and in a way that we have cared - or not so cared - for our customer base. Quite honestly, we needed a seismic shift in attitude, and to understand that we need to be customer-centric.
“It’s how you sustain a business long-term. You can have your booms, but unless you’re customer-centric, it’s unsustainable.”
Jeep's airborne technicians hit the skies
One of the first measures that Flynn put in place, along with the new director of aftersales Jo Markham – a former director of Holden – was to create a quick-response team to solve problems more quickly at a dealer level.
“We've recruited four highly qualified… I call them ‘flying doctors’ there in the regions,” said Flynn. “Their sole role is to deal with these fires. And I'm not letting them have a full-up diary. They've got to be responsive. So as soon as a dealer raises a hand, a customer has an issue or whatever, we can get to it.”
Solving that problem is just the first part of the solution, though.
“When we get to it and we resolve it, we can then say, ‘okay, what was the gap that allowed that to get to where it was?’ If it's a training issue, if it's an experience issue, it's a knowledge issue, is it a parts issue. Whatever happens to be we can now identify it and we've now got the processes in place to fix it.”
It’s modelled off a similar system that Flynn set up while working in South Africa, which shares the same tyranny of distance.
“I was in Perth yesterday, I actually personally went and test drove the customer's vehicle with him,” Flynn revealed. “We'd been exchanging with the team and because my roots were in learning how it all works from a mechanical perspective, you don’t lose the appetite to fix problems.”
Jeep parts prices reduced
Other measures have also been undertaken, with Flynn ordering a complete overhaul of the company’s spare parts catalogue.
“One of the things I learned very quickly was there was some angst in the market at our parts pricing. We did a full analysis of 17,000 part numbers, which just happened to be the very parts we sold last year,” he revealed. “What we've done is put a new mapping across all of that. And anything that's stood above the new mapping, we've reduced the price.
“So it's done, 17,000 part number prices changed and reassessed and we'll do that across the rest of the business as well, but the Jeep and Chrysler parts are done.”
Flynn is under no illusions that the road ahead is a challenging one for the Jeep brand specifically and the FCA model in general, but he’s prepared for the challenge.
“I think it was very, very important not to come in with any preconceived notions, and I think we just really need to some study time to understand the market,” he said.
“To be honest with you every minute there's not a day I don't get up where I'm not still excited by the challenge.”