Chrysler officials were in Orlando, Fla. over the weekend for the annual meeting of the National Association of Automobile Dealers and heard an earful from about 700 of its dealers. "The biggest concern is the Wrangler. The factory can't keep up," Bob Ralph, a dealer from San Antonio, Texas, told Automotive News.
Jeep sold 141,669 Wranglers in the United States last year, a 16 percent gain over 2011.
Demand for the Wrangler stems from several factors including more buyers shopping in general, easier credit terms and design upgrades made to the iconic Wrangler. Demand has pushed dealers to make almost no deals on Wrangler. AOL Autos shows that the Wrangler Rubicon edition is actually transacting a few hundred dollars above the manufacturer's retail selling price (MSRP) of $30,595. Prices for Wrangler start at $22,195.
Popularity of the Wrangler is good news for American manufacturing. The Wrangler, along with the Jeep Liberty, is built at Jeep's Toledo, Ohio assembly complex. That factory was in the news last year when the Mitt Romney campaign suggested, wrongly, in a controversial ad that Chrysler was shipping Jeep jobs overseas to China. Jeep is, in fact, looking at re-starting Jeep production in China, but only to make vehicles for Chinese consumers.
The Grand Cherokee, built in Detroit, is also in high demand. The Grand Cherokee was redesigned two years ago, sharing development with the Mercedes M-Class SUV – a holdover from when Daimler owned Chrysler. "We have been producing Grand Cherokee pretty much flat out in Detroit for more than a year," said Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne at last month's Detroit Auto Show.
About 25 percent to 30 percent of Grand Cherokees are selling for more than $40,000, according to Chrysler officials. And they are so much in demand that those pricey Jeeps are also transacting for more than MSRP. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland stickers starting at $43,995, but AOL Autos shopping tool shows it transacting for more than $45,000.
Jeep and strong Ram truck sales are driving big profits for Chrysler while not remakes its lineup of cars under ownership of Italian automaker Fiat.