Why is the Jeep Wrangler So Popular?
Lets dive in to what makes the American best-selling SUV so iconic.
The Jeep Wrangler is arguably one of the most, if not the single greatest success had by the American Motor Industry. Yes, we all know the history behind this ex-military veteran vehicle, but from a consumer standpoint, the significance of the modern Wrangler is often overlooked.
Culturally, there is a huge importance for the Jeep Wrangler. The reputation is legendary, almost exclusive from real examinations of quality. People like the Wrangler so much, it really wouldn't even matter if it was any good. The reality is, the Jeep Wrangler is not the ultimate vehicle for everyone. In fact, you could even argue it's not even a good daily driver. But then why does it sell so well? Why is the Wrangler so desirable? Let's look at what makes the SUV so popular.
It has shut down all close competitors
The Wrangler is technically a compact SUV, probably the most competitive segment today in the auto industry. But vehicles like the Honda CRV or the Nissan Rogue are certainly no threat to the Wrangler. Sales aren't being stolen from Jeep here because the Wrangler has effectively distanced itself from other SUVs. Its deeper than just being an SUV with an off-road specialty, the Wrangler is in its own lane entirely.
The Suzuki Samuri, no longer sold in the USA
The Chevy Tracker. Classic 90s GM fail.
Lets look at two failed attempts to compete with the Wrangler: the Suzuki Samuri and the Chevy/Geo Tracker. Both of these vehicles featured a boxy, lightweight design and claimed to be offroad warriors. Truth be told, these were actually decent vehicles. They were a cheaper option to buyers who wanted the capability of a Wrangler but couldn't afford the brand name premium Jeep was offering. But the reason these two sold much less than projected was because they didn't have that "cool factor" that Jeep maintains with its Wrangler. This allowed Jeep to retain nearly all of their projected sales and continue to dominate with their cash cow.
Currently in its 4th generation, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler is projected to sell over a quarter of a million units, thanks to a drop in gas prices. You could try your hardest to compare the Jeep to maybe the Ford Explorer or Chevy Blazer, but at the end of the day those are both SUVs, and the Wrangler is a... Jeep (although with the arrival of Ford's new Bronco, this could change).
The Wrangler is one of the most desirable vehicles due to the success it has had since the mid 80s. Thanks to successful marketing campaigns and an absence during the fuel crisis, the Wrangler has always had success. Many Jeep owners will tell you how much they just HAD to have their Wrangler before they bought it. Its the American icon. A hero. The Wrangler sits at a crucial point in the market where it is just expensive enough where not everyone can afford it but at the same time if you work hard, and save your money, just about anyone can have one.
Creds: Doug Demuro
You see, in America we have a serious problem with insecurity. Everyone is constantly desperately trying to improve their social image, or pretend to be someone they wish they were. Jeep promotes an off-road, carefree lifestyle that includes a lot of fun and plenty of good times. Effectively associating the brand with these positive qualities, Jeep has even managed to spread some of the Wrangler's success across the brand. Even some of the cheaper, less capable SUVs have seen pretty good sales numbers in their respective market segments. For example, the Jeep Gladiator, Jeeps new pick up truck has seen plenty of hype, good reviews, and impressive sales numbers. The Gladiator by no coincidence, shares 85% of the Wrangler's styling, with the addition of a bed in the back of course. The Gladiator is effectively able to channel that cool factor that the Wrangler brings to the table. The idea is that they want the buyer to think: "If I buy a Jeep, people will think I am cool and outdoorsy, and maybe I can look like those happy cool outdoorsy folks in that Jeep commercial!" (Thank you Bill Murray).
The very successful Super Bowl ad for the Jeep Gladiator, featuring Bill Murray and a groundhog
Immense aftermarket support
The Jeep Wrangler is also the only vehicle to successfully have its own, model-exclusive aftermarket scene that truly has distinguished itself from other similar vehicles. For example, if you own a Volkswagen GTI, you may be a part of the hot hatch tuning scene, but if you own a Jeep Wrangler, you are a part of the Jeep Wrangler scene. Its an entirely different world than most aftermarket modification communities.
SEMA student builds; 2005 Jeep Wrangler
The sheer amount of options and availability you have as a Jeep owner to customize your Wrangler is impressive. In fact the Wrangler community is so large that the demand for aftermarket parts is high enough to justify production cost for parts belonging to Jeeps designed over 40 years ago. Its not uncommon to see aftermarket brands developing new products for the first Wranglers. You just don't see that anywhere else.
With additional modifications, Wrangler owners can increase the value of their vehicle. This is also exclusive to the Jeep scene. If you lift and supercharge your $3,000 Ford Ranger for $6,000, the value isn't even close to $9,000, no one would buy it. However, if you have a FOXX lifted JK Wrangler on 35"s with an upgraded differential, a custom grille and a snorkel, you can bet there's a market out there willing to buy it. You could probably even sell it by the end of the day. This phenomena defies the status-quo of the auto industry that says aftermarket = bad, and while I may not be able to get behind owning a Jeep Wrangler, I can get behind that any day.