Chrysler still manages to do something that just about no other brand can claim in the run-up to the Super Bowl each year: keep everyone guessing what the company will do with its Big Game advertising.
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This year a likely candidate will be Jeep, which presumably is moving into place as the central brand focus of Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and CMO Olivier Francois for 2014.
Why? For one thing, Marchionne just set an ambitious target of 1 million global sales of Jeep SUVs in 2014. That would be a huge, 37 percent jump from 2012.
Last year, Chrysler chose to run a thematic spot in the Super Bowl associating the Jeep brand with returning and wounded military veterans, as well as a higher-profile commercial for Ram that sang the praises of the American farmer.
The betting here is that, if Chrysler does give Jeep a stage in its Super Bowl advertising, the spot or spots will be more product-oriented. Good feelings about the Jeep brand are one thing; lubricating demand and instigating sales of new products in a year when the chief has set a demanding sales goal are a higher-level priority.
Having cleared away housekeeping obstacles such as the complete unification of Fiat and Chrysler and a now-ended federal investigation of the safety of several old Jeep models in rear-end collisions, Marchionne has been freed to execute his plan for filling out the rest of the Jeep product lineup and turning the icon of American SUVs into a truly global brand.
Elements of the drive to 1 million will include strong demand for the new Jeep Cherokee, the mid-size SUV re-introduced in a new version late last year that finally filled the brand’s gaping need for a top-notch vehicle in one of the hottest segments of the American market.
Also incremental, Marchionne hopes, will be increased production and sales of the larger Grand Cherokee, Jeep’s top seller last year—but still supply-constrained because of some production bottlenecks at a Detroit plant that finally have been eased.
Down the road, Jeep also hopes to begin building vehicles in China within a year or two, depending on how fast the Chinese government finally approves its plans. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Marchionne would like to revive what would be the largest Jeep, with a new version of the venerable Grand Wagoneer nameplate, within a couple of years as well.
In the meantime, the only way to reach 1 million sales this year is to come fast out of the gate. So among other things, Jeep has launched a new 30-second commercial in conjuction with X Games Aspen last week, in its 11th year of sponsorship of the ESPN event.
And, of course, there could be Jeep prominently displayed on Super Bowl Sunday.