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Jeep pins hope on bigger, luxury lineup to surpass 10,000 sales mark in Korea

Jeep executive expresses confidence in the Korean market this year

Global Jeep President Christian Meunier (FCA Korea)
Global Jeep President Christian Meunier (FCA Korea)

After being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Jeep -- a brand under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles -- aims to restore its sales in Korea by rolling out new powerful models, including a brand new Grand Cherokee with diversified powertrains, Jeep’s global president said on Friday.

In a video interview with reporters, Jeep President Christian Meunier laid out a positive outlook for the automaker in the Korean market, highlighting two new models of its iconic Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler planned for release, saying they will make “a big difference” this year.

“COVID-19 has been a challenge for us in supply in 2020, but I have all the confidence in the world that 2021 will be a very beautiful year for Jeep in Korea,” Meunier said.

Earlier this month, the carmaker unveiled the new Grand Cherokee L that came with a third-row option for the first time. The model is slated to launch in the Korean market in the second half of this year.

In 2020, the Jeep brand sold 8,753 units in Korea, down 14.6 percent than the year prior, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. Reaching a 10,000 unit sales mark is considered a major threshold for foreign car brands here.

In comparison with other Asian markets, Meunier noted how South Korea has “extremely strong” domestic manufacturers, coupled with a keen public interest in technology and customer service.

For that, it is crucial for an import brand to provide outstanding products to be successful in the market, he said.

The nation’s heightened attention on the values of work-life balance also matches with Jeep’s identity, while the company’s capability to combine sophistication and technology with an outdoor lifestyle and authenticity really resonates with Koreans, Meunier added.

The Jeep president also expressed great confidence that the all-new Grand Cherokee will be able to compete on par with Genesis, the luxury brand by Korea’s top automaker Hyundai Motor Group.

“Genesis is obviously very successful in Korea, and we need to have a very close look at what they do and understand the details of their strategy, so that we can see how we can better compete with them,” Meunier said.

“I really think that with a product like Grand Cherokee, we have the ability to compete with brands like Genesis, because we have very competitive technologies, best-in-class safety, unbelievable sophistication and craftmanship, and we offer the ‘Jeepness’ that nobody else can offer.”

On popularizing electric vehicles, Meunier said his brand is very much committed to the initiative and that it will aim to electrify all Jeep vehicles by 2022.

“Electrification is something that Jeep completely embraces. And the reason is not only about compliance, fuel economy, nor eco-friendly. It’s about the perfect combination of our brand values, and a new technology that allows us to bring more capabilities for our Jeep,” Meunier said.

“So we want to have a leading role in electrification not a following role, and we want to be the greenest SUV brand in the world.”

Autonomous driving is also one of the series of technology that will be rolled out this year, with the L2+ hands-off autonomous drive assist, which will be introduced along with the Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer, the automaker said.

“We are investing in L3 and L4, we have a lot of different projects in the pipeline, that will be very exciting for Jeep too,” Meunier said, referring to future, more advanced levels of the lineup.

As for the long delivery period and weak accessibility to service centers that have been pointed out, FCA Korea Managing Director Jake Aumann said the automaker plans to expand their service network for better customer experience.

“In 2021, it will be not only renovating our service network to match our world class sales, but also expanding our service network. We will make sure we have the availability (for customers to get them) in a timely manner,” said Aumann, who also attended the media briefing.

Jeep deliveries may be slow in the first quarter of this year due to a lack of inventory in the dealer network amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the automaker will make sure to pick up speed in the coming quarters in the Korean market, Meunier added.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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