While American-branded cars have historically struggled in Japan, Jeep looks to be gaining popularity, particularly among younger buyers.
Sales of the the rugged-looking SUV in the country are expected to increase 10% this year to more than 15,000 units, Hitoshi Ushikubo, the head of sales at Fiat Chrysler Japan, said in an interview Monday. Fiat Chrysler Japan has yet to be officially merged with the Japan office of Peugeot SA to come under the new Stellantis NV umbrella.
Shoppers in Japan have typically opted for smaller cars with high fuel efficiency, one reason why Ford Motor Co. ended up leaving the country in 2016. But Jeep has managed to retain a loyal customer base. Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, more young people are taking an interest in the cars, drawn by their ability to handle all sorts of outdoor terrain.
“We’ve made efforts to fit with the Japanese market” by rolling out cars with right-hand drive, unlike General Motors and Ford, Ushikubo said. “Young people are looking for cars that allow them to present a part of their character,” he said, adding that a strong social media presence has also helped the brand.
Jeep sold 1,925 cars in March, 36% higher than the same month in 2020, which was impacted by COVID-19. Wrangler and Renegade marques were the most popular, according to a statement Tuesday. Jeep ranked third last year among imported SUV brands in Japan, selling 13,588 units.
Tsubasa Imai, who bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee a few months ago, is one satisfied customer. “I like outdoor activities and I was looking for a car that has high horsepower and can carry a lot of baggage,” the 24-year-old said. There also aren’t too many cars in Japan that can tow a boat as well as look cool, he said.
Fiat Chrysler Japan expects to introduce new models for the Grand Cherokee, Compass and Gladiator this year. But keeping to that schedule may depend on the availability of chips, Ushikubo said.
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