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Friday rant: You bought a what?

By Stephen Corby, 09 May 2014 Features

Friday rant: You bought a what?

The real success of Jeep is clearly in the marketing

If someone had shown you pictures of Justin Bieber, Matt Preston and a Jeep a decade ago, would you have been able to predict how successful they’d be by now? Bieber, of course, would have been barely walking, so that’s a tough one.

Anyway, I hope not, because that would make me feel slightly better.

Every year I take part in an Opinion Leaders Survey of people in the motoring industry and one of the questions is: “Which three brands do you think will do well in the next 12 months?” And I can safely say Jeep was never in my top 300.

And yet, in a stunning example of the fact that advertising actually does work on the simple-minded and logic-averse, Jeep’s stocks are flying high in Australia.

“I bought a Jeep,” isn’t exactly “Matter of fact, I’ve got it now” when it comes to copywriting, but the brand’s absurd success – sales up more than 90 percent, year on year – has just as much to do with the Potbelleez belter, “Don’t Hold Back”. I hope they got paid a fortune for the rights, because they deserve them.

It’s not that all Jeeps are rubbish, it’s just that they haven’t built a decent car yet. Sure, the recent facelift is a nice job of giving a hillbilly new teeth, but they’re still not great to drive, or pleasant inside.

There’s no denying they’re fit for purpose, of course, because all Jeeps come with genuine off-roady dusty DNA. They look rough and ready because they really are, as anyone who’s ever seen one master the Rubicon Trail will testify.

My favourite Jeep memory, though, is being told on a Wrangler launch by company spokesheads that, yes, they know their steering is crap, but they can’t fix it because that’s how their customers like it.

Who are these slack-jawed customers, and how did so many of them sneak into Australia?

“I bought a Jeep” is a phrase that would only be used in a mock-Yankee-doodle accent in this country not so long ago.

And the Americans are only being encouraged by our slavering love for Jeep, with the company’s boss, Mike Manley, announcing this week that the brand would double sales to 1.9 million cars by 2018.

These plans involve launching something called a Grand Wagoneer, which sounds like something Phil Dunphy would really want to drive.

“Jeep spirit is something that we believe lives inside everybody,” Manley said. “Our job is to reach inside and pull that spirit to the surface.”

You know what else lives inside everyone? Think intestines, Mike.

I didn’t see Jeep’s success coming, but I don’t think anyone’s who’s ever driven one would have, either.

Jeep owners, and particularly those of you who attend the mystifying Jeep Jamborees held in Australia every year, feel free to attack me below. I won’t listen.