Customer passion keeps Jeep ahead of Bronco, says North America head

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Holly — The passion of Jeep customers is what puts the Stellantis NV brand at the top of the off-roading hill, says Jim Morrison, head of Jeep in North America, even as Ford Motor Co.'s new Bronco comes to challenge that status.

That zeal will be on display in full throttle this weekend when hundreds of four-wheeling enthusiasts descend upon Oakland County's Holly Oaks ORV Park on Saturday and Sunday for 4Fest sponsored by Jeep. The brand also said it's adding the Jeep Wrangler Willys to be eligible for the Xtreme Recon package, which offers 35-inch factory tires.

Jeep CEO Jim Morrison intros the new Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon package: 35-inch tires, 11-inch ground clearance, bead-lock wheels, skid plates. $40,930

"It's the love each customer has of the brand and for the community, because that is quite frankly what competitors can’t copy," Morrison said before taking a plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe into the mud on Thursday at Holly Oaks. "It's the community of 3 million Wrangler customers. In 80 years, maybe we’ve got a problem. But I think our customers will be very passionate in continuing to support Jeep."

He, however, didn't miss a chance to swipe at Ford for having to recall and replace hardtops on all Bronco roofs for a quality issue when exposed to extreme water and humidity: "It’s going to rain on Saturday, so I don’t think there will be any Broncos here this weekend."

Even after Ford launched the Bronco Sport last year and began delivering the larger Bronco in June, Morrison pointed to the Wrangler's continued results: It's had three consecutive quarters of record sales, and May was its best-ever month. The 4xe model has underwritten three-quarters of that sales growth, he said, underscoring Jeep's plans to introduce an all-electric vehicle in each of its segments by 2025 with its first expected in 2023.

"We’ve had our best-ever sales success," Morrison said. "I just think think it shows the strength of our customer base. There's no doubt there’s going to be a lot of F-150 people driving Broncos. For me, the proof for the strength of the Jeep brand is in the results of the sales it keeps kicking out and more importantly, the passion of our customers that keep staying true to the brand."

Jeep, too, though has had to face challenges with the shortage of semiconductors. The automaker is idling the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit making the two-row Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango for this week and the next. Morrison, however, says the company is prioritizing its new launches, including the three-row Grand Cherokee L at the Mack Assembly Plant in Detroit, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in Warren and, later this year, the next-generation two-row Grand Cherokee.

"We have supply-chain people working around the clock," he said, adding that autoworkers also will "work three-quarters of a shift just to keep the plant going and keep Jeeps pumping up whether in Detroit or Toledo."

To continue it's growth trajectory, Morrison says Jeep will continue to look to its customers to hear their feedback and wish lists. Their comments are why the brand introduced the V-8-powered Wrangler Rubicon 392 this year and has introduced the pinkish "Tuscadero" color, a limited-time offer for $395 that has been so popular the brand added a fourth month of manufacturing it, Morrison said.

Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon package interior

The heritage-inspired 2022 Wrangler Willys with the Xtreme Recon package comes with a black grille and badging. Available on the four-door model, the 35-inch BF Goodrich K02 all-terrain tires come with a 1.5-inch factory suspension lift with specially tuned shocks. It offers 12.9 inches of ground clearance and 33.6 inches of water fording. It will be available to order starting in October for $39,435 plus $1,495 in destination fees with production beginning in December in Toledo.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble