After rolling up sales of more than 1 million units in 2014, the Jeep brand is off to a fast start in 2015 as it records increases of more than 20% for the first two months of the year despite getting drubbed by Consumer Reports.
Moreover, the newest member of the Jeep family, the Jeep Renegade, is just beginning to reach dealers and showrooms in the next several weeks. “They’re outside the fence,” noted Art Anderson, FCA US chief engineer and vehicle line executive for the Renegade, during an interview webcast on AutoLine’s “After Hours” program this week.
The Renegade is the first Jeep vehicle produced outside the U.S. and while FCA US executives insist the launch is on schedule, Anderson acknowledged the ships carrying the first batch of Renegades from Italy to the west did run into some foul weather. However, the ship was unloaded in timely manner once it reached San Diego, he said.
The Renegade gives Jeep an entry in the small crossover arena, which is one of the fastest growing segments in the automobile business and is expected to appeal to appeal to broad cross section of customers, including young buyers as well as older empty nesters.
Anderson said the Renegade was designed to deliver the Jeep’s brand’s traditional capability in a relatively small, smartly-designed package that is bolstered by the latest electronics, which are used for the driveline where the Renegade is capable of switching automatically from four-wheel to two-wheel drive, to an optional drivers assistance package that includes a forward collision warning system capable of stopping the vehicle.
The Renegade is expected to augment Jeep sales in the U.S. without hurting the sales of the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot or the Jeep Wrangler all of which have benefited from revival of Jeep sales since the end of the recession.
Even the negative comments from Consumer Reports, a key influence in the car buying decisions of millions of Americans, hasn’t derailed Jeep’s revival.
Jim Morrison, director of Jeep Product Marketing, noted recently that the Wrangler, with its rough ride and unpolished road manners, invariably scores poorly in Consumer Reports’ evaluation and tends to drag down the score of the entire brand.
Jeep is one the key elements the of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne’s ambitious efforts to turn the Italian American automaker into a global industrial machine. The new Renegade will be built in factories in Italy and Brazil and distributed to market all over the world, Anderson noted.
The plant in Brazil has already begun building the Renegade from kits and is in the process of checking suppliers so it can start assembling vehicles with components made locally in Brazil, Anderson said.
Fiat Chrysler also is scheduled to start building Jeep Cherokee in southern China later this year.
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Marchionne himself was rewarded handsomely by Fiat Chrysler for moving company’s plans forward, according to a new filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. The SEC filing was required, following FCA’s decision to list its share on the New York Stock Exchange, starting back in October.
Marchionne earned about $8 million in 2014, up $3 million from the previous year, according to the forms filed with the SEC.
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Marchionne’s 2014 earnings included an annual salary of more than $3 million based on the Dec. 31 filing and $4.9 million in annual incentives related to the company’s performance; and $135,251 in “other compensation.”
Marchionne was the highest paid executive for the world’s seventh-largest automaker. The 20-F form reports board directors for Fiat Chrysler and the former Fiat SpA earned a total of $13.6 million in 2014, including $8.3 million in salary.
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Following Marchionne were Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann $2 million and former Ferrari and Fiat SpA Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo at $2.5 million. Of those disclosed in the filing, Marchionne was the only executive who received an annual incentive.
Marchionne also led all top executives and board directors in Fiat Chrysler common shares owned as of March 5. He owns 14.4 million shares, 1.12% of the company. Elkann owned the second-most at 133,000, but also represents the Agnelli family interest, which own a controlling stake in both FCA and its sister companies.