Jeep-focused showrooms can fuel brand growth, CEO says

jeep focused showrooms can fuel brand growth ceo says

Jeep’s recent product infusion is happening in conjunction with a nationwide effort by dealers to build separate showrooms aimed at capturing the off-road brand’s spirit and giving consumers a unique buying experience.

Jeep CEO Christian Meunier says more than 300 dealerships will be adding Jeep showrooms in the next two years. In that span, stores will have to make room for entries such as the extended Wagoneer L and Grand Wagoneer L SUVs coming this year and Jeep’s first battery-electric crossover due in 2023.

Although Jeep has a healthy product pipeline, Meunier admits that some dealers aren’t completely sold on making the investment to build a specialized showroom.

“Some don’t realize the potential that exists,” Meunier said in an interview at the New York auto show in April. “I think very soon they will see their peers being very successful.”

Meunier hopes seeing that success could motivate more dealers to make the leap, but he feels Jeep can do more to sell them on its vision.

“Because of the product plan and the growth opportunity for Jeep in North America in the next five years, the dealers are going to be, I think, very much engaged,” Meunier told Automotive News. “So we need to show the dealers our future a little bit more so that they can have that vision more well defined. We have some work to do to convince them a little bit more about that, but this is the future.”

The draw of a Jeep-centered showroom can be seen at LaFontaine Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram of Fenton in Michigan.

The dealership has crafted an experience that draws on the heritage of the brand while touting its latest products.

A vintage Wagoneer is on display as a nod to the lineage of the hulking new models that now roam the streets. The SUV, which belongs to LaFontaine Automotive Group founder Mike LaFontaine, is an icebreaker for shoppers who may be hesitant about the sales experience when they first walk in, said Paul Jordan, the store’s general manager.

“The customers automatically walk to it because it’s so unique and different,” Jordan said. “Their conversation with the sales consultant starts off on, ‘My dad had one of these.’ ‘My grandpa drove this car.’ Instead of, ‘Folks, what are you here for, you need a new car today? Let me sell you a new car.’ It’s the icebreaker instead of the sales pitch.”

Adding to the atmosphere, various Jeep insignias adorn the walls, and there’s a showcase area for Jeep shirts, hats and coffee mugs. There’s a separate waiting area for Jeep service customers with upgraded snacks. A Gladiator stationed in the showroom is decked out with a range of Mopar accessories — and the vehicle is available for test drives.

The salespeople are experts on the brand. Jordan hopes customers feel as if they’re in a Jeep dealership rather than a store with other Stellantis brands.

The LaFontaine store plans to rework its Jeep area this month to accommodate the Grand Wagoneer imaging program that will highlight the luxurious SUV, which can top $110,000 when fully loaded.

As for other stores considering the addition of a Jeep showroom, Jordan said simply having this section isn’t enough. The dealership itself needs a culture truly dedicated to the brand.

“Their people have to believe it. They have to treat the guests differently,” Jordan said.

“Just because you build a showroom doesn’t mean it’s going to work. You have to have the culture of your employees match the showroom. That’s what the difference is — not the showroom — the culture of your staff.”

Randy Dye, chairman of the Stellantis National Dealer Council, is converting a building on his Daytona, Fla., property into a Jeep showroom.

Dye, owner of Daytona Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram, said dealers who aren’t looking to carve out their own Jeep spaces should consider what the brand’s other stores are doing in their markets. People like going to places that are “new, updated and cool,” he said, so he wouldn’t recommend being the only Jeep store in a particular area that doesn’t make this investment.

Dye has heard from other dealers who have added the Jeep showrooms and are reaping the rewards.

“I’ve listened to some of the guys that have done it, that got ahead of it, and they’ve indicated while they were not real sure how successful it was going to be as they made the decision to do it, [it] has been successful once it got done,” Dye said. “The customers really appreciate their own space, and the volume increases.”


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