April '20

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44 THE SHOP APRIL 2020 awards of its own, including the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year award and FOUR WHEELER's Pickup Truck of the Year. "The new Jeep Gladiator is the truck many buyers have been waiting years for," says Ken Brubaker, FOUR WHEELER editor. "After a week of testing in a variety of challenging environments, the Gladi- ator proved that it is all truck and all Jeep, which is a formidable combination. Mix in the impressive Rubicon package that includes Tru-Lok differential lockers, Rock- Trac transfer case with 4:1 low range, front disconnecting stabilizer bar, and full skid- plating and it's clear the Gladiator is at the front of the class." IT'S A JEEP THING Well-respected industry professionals Joel Smith, owner of Auto Definitions in Cla- remore, Oklahoma, and Kevin Champ, owner of FORCE Customs in Tampa, Florida, provide some commentary about these two heavyweights, their impact on the aftermarket and where they fit among the many JKs now entering second or third ownership—just begging for a trip to the local shop for updated trail treatment. There was a lot of hype heading into the launch of the Wrangler JL, with many wondering how Jeep was going to outrun its iconic JK badge. You've worked on both and you've wheeled both— did Jeep hit the mark with the all-new JL and, if so, in what ways? SMITH: I think they definitely hit it out of the park! The JL gives you the best of both worlds. With a significantly improved steering setup, 8-speed automatic transmis- sion and interior upgrades, it really feels like you're driving a car. A slightly wider body with a little longer wheelbase gives the JL a very solid feel, with better stability on the highway and the trail. CHAMP: I would say yes, Jeep did a great job. At first, I was resistant because we've just built so many JKs over the years and I knew all we could accomplish with the platform, but what Jeep did with that 8-speed automatic transmission is a huge win in so many ways. The JL provides enhanced drivability and an overall better customer experience. As the Jeep has evolved from a dedicated off- road vehicle to an everyday driver, that's very important. From an aftermarket stand- point, now the JL can be fitted with larger wheels and tires without re-gearing. There's been chatter that dealer- ships are somewhat unhappy because Wranglers are spending more time on dealer lots. Some say FCA was a little too aggressive in its pricing and sales pro- jections, and the result is a big production push that is applying a lot of pressure at the dealership level. Have we finally reached the top in terms of what consumers are willing to pay for these vehicles, and could it limit their potential for the aftermarket? SMITH: Jeeps in general hold their value but, yeah, I'd agree with that state- ment. The JL, like the Gladiator, is extremely expensive right off the lot. Not everyone has FCA US LLC Sales Summary Q4 2019 Q4 Sales Vol % CYTD Sales Vol % Model Curr Yr Pr Yr Change Curr Yr Pr Yr Change Compass 33,263 38,493 -14% 143,934 171,167 -16% Patriot 6 22 -73% 27 621 -96% Wrangler 52,012 49,081 6% 228,032 240,032 -5% Gladiator 16,663 0 New 40,047 0 New Cherokee 42,048 59,694 -30% 191,397 239,437 -20% Grand Cherokee 57,929 58,255 -1% 242,969 224,908 8% Renegade 19,615 21,488 -9% 76,885 97,062 -21% JEEP BRAND 221,536 227,033 -2% 923,291 973,227 -5% RUGGED RIDGE +++++++++ How have the new Jeeps affected the aftermarket? "Like in the past with any new Jeep Wrangler model, the aftermarket has been busy developing new products for the past two years. Almost any new product for the JL/JT finds an audience looking for the latest acces- sories. With the new design, fit and finish from Jeep for the JL/JT, the con- sumer is expecting a different level of accessory in fit, finish and quality." Your hot Jeep product is … "AmFib Snorkel, high & low mount for JL/JT. We engineered the entire AmFib snorkel inside the Jeep to literally make waves, by designing a system that is over-engineered to be less invasive, perform better and install easier. Quickly swap the low air intake for the high-mount intake and you can defy water crossings with total confidence." – Henk van Dongen, director of marketing HIGH & MIGHTY The new Gladiator is a hit with truck and Jeep enthusiasts and lends itself to a variety of customization options. (Photo courtesy FORCE Customs)

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