2020 was a banner year for Jeep sales in Japan and it only expects things to get better in 2021.
The market has officially become the best for Wranglers sales outside of North America and is the brand’s sixth-biggest global market. That despite a historical trend of U.S. brands struggling in Japan.
With sales rising 1.7% in 2020 despite the pandemic, last year was the seventh in a row in which Jeep reached record-levels in the nation. Better still, sales are looking good so far this year.
The brand sold 1,925 cars last month, up 36% from March 2020. Although that increase was helped by the coronavirus, Jeep still anticipates that sales will top 15,000 this year, making 2021 the eighth year of growing sales in a row.
The SUV-focused brand’s success in the market is made all the more unusual because of Japan’s love of small, fuel-efficient cars. That has caused difficulties for American brands in the past, but Jeep has proven popular with younger buyers.
“I like outdoor activities and I was looking for a car that has high horsepower and can carry a lot of baggage,” Tsubasa Imai, a 24-year-old who recently bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee told Bloomberg. The SUV’s ability to tow a boat and look cool also appealed to Imai.
Jeep’s success also comes down to its efforts to localize products, according to Hitoshi Ushikubo, the head of sales at Fiat Chrysler Japan (which has not yet completed its subsumption into the Stellantis empire). The brand is helped by its big social media presence, which supports its cool image.
“We’ve made efforts to fit with the Japanese market,” said Ushikubo. “Young people are looking for cars that allow them to present a part of their character.”
The success is inspiring an expansion plan. Fiat Chrysler Japan CEO Pontus Häggström intends to go from around 80 dealers to more than 100 by 2023.