If Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (NASDAQOTH:FIATY) Jeep Grand Cherokee plans on impressing any more critics or journalists, it's going to need a bigger trophy room. The midsize SUV's awards list is impressive, no doubt, and Grand Cherokee sales have driven the entire Jeep brand to new heights.
So what's all the hype about? Let's look at some of the Grand Cherokee's highlights and how its sales performance is kicking Jeep and Fiat Chrysler Automobile, or FCA, into high gear.
Specs and highlights
What makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee impressive is its flexibility to be whatever consumers demand. It ranks just as high with automotive journalists and critics for its off-road performance as it does for its technology features and high-quality interior. That's good news for those drivers tackling actual jungles, and for those of us trapped in a concrete jungle of the big city.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee is pretty much the same iconic SUV that helped make Jeep the No. 1 SUV brand in the world through 1990. This year's model features three 4x4 systems (Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II), and also has a Quadra-Lift air suspension and terrain traction management system. Those are all important features for rising above a rocky road or plowing through other nasty off-road conditions.
This year's Jeep Grand Cherokee also boasts impressive fuel economy, which is becoming an increasingly important purchase factor among car buyers -- especially those of us not traveling through rivers or mountainsides. Its new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 delivers an estimated best-in-class 30 mpg, in addition to its best-in-class towing capability of 7,400 pounds.
For car buyers not daring enough to try an EcoDiesel engine, the Grand Cherokee has a few more options. Its 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine is now expected to achieve up to 25 mpg highway and its 5.7-liter V-8 is estimated to reach 22 mpg on the highway.
The Grand Cherokee also boasts more than 60 safety and security features, including forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and front park assist.
Those features only add to the already impressive Grand Cherokee interior. One recognizable change is the new three-spoke steering wheel which tops off an award-winning interior that is well crafted and technically advanced. A brushed aluminum look provides a sleek and more modern feel. To top it all off, the midsize SUV has an 8.4-inch touchscreen with climate and infotainment controls.
"With the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, we have taken the industry's most highly acclaimed SUV and elevated it to an even higher level," said Mike Manley, president and CEO for the Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group, in a press release.
Jeep pretty much nailed it with the 2014 Grand Cherokee and, not surprisingly, sales are surging.
Sales keep on climbing
Last month marked the Grand Cherokee's best April performance in nine years. The vehicle's value shouldn't be underestimated: the SUV is the best-selling vehicle this year in the entire Jeep brand, which is currently the best-selling brand for FCA. In fact, Jeep accounted for nearly one of every three vehicles FCA sold in U.S. this year, through April.
Sales of the Grand Cherokee were up an impressive 17% year over year through April. That's more than any other Jeep vehicle and it has helped increase sales of the entire Jeep brand a ridiculous 46% higher this year versus 2013.
Grand Cherokee already helped drive the Jeep brand to back-to-back world sales records for the company in 2012 and 2013. Jeep's Grand Cherokee is one reason, among a few, why FCA's sales improvements have significantly topped rivals Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) this year, through April. That said, it should be noted FCA trails in overall sales volumes.
SUVs are becoming much more popular again now that fuel economy has taking a large step forward. They also bring in higher profit margins and typically higher transaction prices, which boost both the top and bottom lines for automakers.
Jeep's Grand Cherokee is a big part of the overall plan to boost Jeep's overall brand sales from 732,000 last year to 1.9 million by 2018. FCA also hopes to return the Jeep brand to the No. 1 SUV spot from its current No. 6 ranking.
When Fiat Chrysler Automobiles goes public on the New York Stock Exchange soon, the success of Jeep will be a key point for investors to watch. Jeep represents a big chunk of the company's global ambitions, profit, and market share. If the rest of Jeep's vehicle lineup is as popular as the 2014 Grand Cherokee, it's going to be a much more enjoyable ride in the years ahead for investors.
Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.