What is in this article?:
- Jeep Forging Ahead With Global Expansion, CEO Says
- India on Horizon; High Hopes for Renegade
Plans call for producing Jeeps in China with joint-venture partner Guangzhou Automobile Group beginning late next year.
Demand for Grand Cherokee and Wrangler high, Manley says.
CHELSEA, MI – Jeep continues to gain momentum, both in the U.S. and abroad, and it’s keeping its top executive busy making decisions to ensure the brand continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Mike Manley, president and CEO-Jeep, says the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee SUVs are the two hottest products in the lineup and the automaker is struggling to keep up with consumer demand.
Through June, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee sales were up 10.3% and 10.9%, respectively, which is keeping the Toledo, OH, and Detroit assembly plants churning.
The Toledo plant is on two shifts, while the Jefferson North, Detroit facility is on a 3-crew system, according to WardsAuto data.
Toledo had estimated capacity utilization of 125% in second-quarter 2014, and for full-year is forecasted to operate at 118% of capacity. Jefferson North had a Q2 utilization of 146%, and for the entire year is pegged at 138%.
In comparison, the North America light vehicle industry ran at 101% in Q2, and the year is forecasted at 98%.
“We’re working as hard as we can to get (inventory) levels up to where they need to be,” he tells WardsAuto during a media event here. “I wouldn’t say they’re critical, but I’d like to have more supply than we have.”
At the end of June, Wrangler and Grand Cherokee inventory levels stood at 54 and 60 days’ supply, respectively. Ideally, automakers like to maintain a 60 days’ supply.
Manley says further pressure is coming from export demand for the Grand Cherokee. Currently, about 20% of Grand Cherokee output is shipped outside the U.S.
“Our manufacturing and supply chain guys have done a phenomenal job,” he says. “They take every opportunity to squeeze out additional production. It’s amazing, a few extra (units) a day really does add up.”
The Wrangler also is exported, but at smaller volumes than the Grand Cherokee. Manley says the model’s unique off-road abilities have limited appeal in markets such as Europe, while it’s cost-prohibitive in countries like China.
The automaker recently began exporting the Jeep Cherokee, as well. Although it’s too early to tell how the SUV will perform overseas, early indications are positive.
“Feedback from Asia has been great and dealer interest strong, but we’re a couple of months away from saying the market really appreciates the vehicle,” Manley says.