Chrysler Group LLC (F)’s Jeep division, aided by the fast start of the new Cherokee, probably will surpass 1 million sales worldwide this year or next, the brand’s top executive said.
Jeep global sales reached a record 731,565 last year and shipments have more than tripled since 2009, said Mike Manley, the brand’s president. Getting the maker of sport-utility vehicles to the automaker’s 1 million target by 2015 would be faster than Manley originally had expected.
“If the new Cherokee is successful here and in international markets, we should be able to take a big chunk out of that remaining 300,000 we need for the million,” Manley said yesterday in an interview at the Detroit auto show. “It’s a stretch to say we would do it in ’14, but if not in ’14, we should certainly be on track in ’15.”
U.S. sales of the Cherokee are 15 percent to 20 percent ahead of Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler’s expectations after two months on the market, he said. The Cherokee name is returning after last being used for a Jeep model in 2001. Manley said consumers haven’t been turned off by the new model’s styling, which was criticized by reviewers such as Motor Trend magazine for its protruding grille and three rows of headlights.
“What I hear is, ‘When I saw it in the pictures, I wasn’t sure I liked it or I didn’t like it. Now I’ve seen it and I’ve walked around it and I’ve seen it on the streets and I’m kind of liking it,’” Manley said.
Cherokee is among the new models that pushed Chrysler to 45 straight monthly U.S. sales gains from year earlier. That streak will continue this month, Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s U.S. sales chief, said in an interview.