Sales figures compiled by Gaijin Auto show that GAC Ficker delivered two consecutive months of zero sales figures (domestic model sales) in the country in March and April 2022. GAC FIC’s dealership employees also told Gaijin Auto that as of now, things are still not getting better.
Jeep retraces the same path as Fiat
In early 2014, with Fiat Group officially completing its full acquisition of Chrysler Automobiles, news of Chrysler’s re-entry into China’s domestic market continued to spread, especially for Chrysler’s Jeep brand, a brand with a lot of sentimental value in China. The Jeep brand, a brand with a lot of sentiment in China, became a big event that many people were looking forward to, given the “flood” of SUVs in China at the time.
The mobil Jeep brand didn’t keep everyone waiting for long, as in 2015, GAC Fiat officially changed its name to GAC FIC and introduced the Jeep China project.
GAC FIC originally had two brands, Fiat and Jeep, but after the Fiat brand produced two models, the Fisho and Ziyou, the unconvincing performance in the Chinese market became more and more obvious. At its peak in 2014, Fiat was able to deliver annual sales of 68,000 units, but after entering 2015, annual sales were directly cut to 31,500 units, and by 2018 annual sales were already less than 1,000 units. At the same time, the Jeep project, which was reintroduced into China, showed strong market momentum in the first few years, and with this, GAC FIC’s development focus was completely tilted on the Jeep project. After entering 2018, the domestically produced Fiat has basically come to a standstill.
In November 2015, the first model of Jeep’s domestically produced Freelander was officially launched into the market, and the first thing GAC FIC had to do was to raise awareness of the Jeep brand. This year, the Fiat brand had become more and more marginal in the domestic market, and a very real problem in front of us was how to maintain the overall image of the Jeep brand after the integration of the sales network, which was sold in common shops with Fiat models.
At that time, some people in the industry said that most of the Fiat dealers were happy to see the integration, but the original Chrysler dealers were skeptical (after the integration, GAC FIC dealers would not only sell the domestic Fiat and Jeep brands but also the imported Chrysler and Dodge). GAC Ficker’s initial intentions were very rich, with the idea of forming a multi-brand synergy after the merger, but the reality was very skeletal, and was eventually “truthful” by the shortcomings.
Firstly, the market performance of Fiat after the Jeep was domestically produced was straightforward, and then the domestically produced Jeep quickly followed the same path as the domestically produced Fiat, and after a short period of “glory”, the market performance soon fell into silence.
How did Jeep get to this point?
Like Fiat, the joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group is also a “second entry” for the Jeep brand in the domestic market. In fact, the first joint venture in China, Beijing Jeep, which predates the former Nanjing Fiat project, started operations in early 1984. The project did not last long, however, and in 2005 Beijing Jeep underwent a restructuring of its operations, bringing Jeep’s first journey into China to an abrupt end.
Although the first domestic experience ended in failure, it did cultivate a considerable number of fans for the Jeep brand, and it is this experience of Beijing Jeep that has given many Chinese people the so-called “Jeep sentiment”. The brand slogan “Every man has a Jeep in his heart” has really made many unrestrained and freedom-loving hearts boil over instantly. So for some time after that, although the domestic business was temporarily interrupted, Jeep’s import business in China was still flourishing, and in 2014, before it was domestically produced again, Jeep was still able to deliver 88,000 annual sales by importing cars.
After that, this “sentiment” also allowed the Jeep brand to eat a lot of market dividends in the initial stage of the domestic production of GAC FIC.
In 2015, the domestic Freelander was officially launched and crossed the 5,000-unit monthly sales mark (5,834 units) in just one month, which was due to the overall boom in the domestic SUV market at the time, but the “Jeep sentiment” must also have played a big part. After all, the Chinese Jeep was a new brand at the time, and the Freelander’s product reputation after its launch was not very good (for example, its 9-speed transmission had been ridiculed by many consumers, and its product strategy of launching 2WD models had also created a lot of criticism), so it was quite a surprise that it was able to sell so quickly.