PORTLAND, OR – Boasting about a new engine and transmission is not enough, on its own, to stoke interest in the ’12 Jeep Wrangler, admits brand marketing chief Becky Blanchard.
So Jeep is contemplating a more comprehensive campaign to help the iconic SUV maintain marketplace momentum that in July triggered its best-ever monthly sales total.
“You will see some stuff start in September, talking about the improved performance,” Blanchard tells Ward’s here during a media preview. “That will carry through (fourth quarter). Then we’re investigating bigger plans for Q1 of next year.”
But she is mum on details.
The ’12 Wrangler, which marked its production launch last month, is equipped with’s 3.6L Pentastar, a Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner for 2011. The new V-6 replaces the 3.8L engine that powered previous Wranglers.
’s 5-speed A5280 gearbox replaces the 4-speed 42RLE as the Wrangler’s automatic transmission offering.
Enthusiasts, who account for a significant number of Jeep customers, readily grasp the significance of such moves, Blanchard says.
“But telling the average customer that there’s a new engine doesn’t necessarily mean a lot,” she adds. “So our goal will be really to quantify the customer benefits.”
Those benefits include maximum output of 285 hp and peak torque of 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm), increases of 40% and 10%, respectively, compared with the outgoing engine.
In addition, Chrysler promises highway-cycle fuel economy of up to 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km), an improvement from the ’11 Wrangler’s rating of 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km).
Wrangler already is resonating with consumers. Chrysler logged 14,355 deliveries in July, eclipsing the nameplate’s previous monthly sales record of 13,397, achieved in March 2007, according to Ward’s data.
The sales ratio of 2-door models to 4-door favors the latter, 60:40. Noting the Wrangler is the U.S. market’s only 4-door, 4-wheel-drive convertible, Blanchard is on solid ground when she claims it has no competitors.
“It can do things that other vehicles don’t do,” she says. “That’s what makes us really unique and stand out.”
The SUV’s best-in-class 44.6-degree approach angle complements its 40.6-degree departure angle and 10.6-in. (26.9-cm) ground clearance to afford superior off-road performance. And Wrangler owners are more likely than any other Jeep customer to go off-road.
Some 65% of owners of the base-model Sport-trim Wrangler report driving on terrain that features rocks, streams and mud, according to Jeep. That percentage soars to 90% for owners of the nameplate’s most rugged Rubicon trim.
The trend also is consistent among 4-door owners, for whom the Wrangler often serves as a family vehicle.
“Even though we don’t have a true competitor in the marketplace, we still do all of the consumer analysis that we would do on a ‘normal’ vehicle,” Blanchard adds. “Because meeting the needs of the customer is the important thing.”
The ’12 Wrangler also benefits from a sweeping interior upgrade from the ’11 model and three new colors: Dozer Yellow, Deep Molten Red and Crush Orange. Blanchard promises additional color revisions.