More Jeep Models May Mean Less Brand Equity

Chrysler's Move to Add Patriot, Other Lines Could Be Confusing Consumers

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DETROIT ( -- It used to be there was only one Jeep. Now there are seven.

After selling three models of the popular product for years, Chrysler has added four more since 2005 -- far too much of a good thing, according to experts. "Seven is too many models," said Todd Turner, president of consultant CarConcepts, who says there's not enough differentiation for at least two newcomers.
Jeep Commander
There are now seven Jeep models competing for a piece of the $125 million spent on measured media last year. Meet the challengers.

As a result, Commanders, Patriots, Grand Cherokees and Compasses are all jockeying for a piece of the $125 million the Jeep brand spent in the first half on measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence -- not to mention consumer consideration. "How fractionally are you going to slice this pie?" Mr. Turner asked.

There is, of course, a good reason Chrysler is focusing on Jeep. The automaker reported last week that Jeep was the only one of its three brands to post an increase in vehicle sales in the first nine months of the year. Chrysler said Jeep sold 363,669 vehicles in the period, an 8% jump from the same period last year.

No choice
The way John Plecha sees it, Jeep had no choice but to expand its brand into new SUV segments. Mr. Plecha, director-brand marketing and global communications for the Chrysler brand, said most Americans don't drive off-road, which is why Jeep added "urban" models with smoother rides.

He said Jeep is merely meeting market demands with smaller, more affordable SUVs, still one of the hottest categories in the industry. Jeep was the automaker's natural choice for such an expansion since some 48% of all Jeep buyers come from outside Chrysler, he said.

Gary Topolewski, Jeep's former longtime top creative, who is now a consultant, believes the brand, via its agency, Cutwater, San Francisco, is losing its toughness. He said while he likes the "Have Fun Out There" tag and executions, which began running in July, it's too "cute" for Jeep's longstanding "invincible and go-anywhere" positioning. He partly blamed the client.

Wes Brown, VP of consultant Iceology, agreed, saying the majority of other small SUVs are also positioned as fun and adventuresome.

But Mr. Plecha said Jeep is happy with its lineup, and seven models are enough for now. "Now we have something for everybody."
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