I'm a very stubborn person, and it's been difficult for me to end my references to Detroit's Big Three -- Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU). Despite FCA's recent debut on the New York Stock Exchange, the automaker's headquarters is no longer in the United States, and Chrysler Group is officially owned by its European counterpart.
However, those are simply technicalities. Chrysler Group products -- which include the Jeep and Ram Truck, among others -- is absolutely still the heart and soul of the entire automaker. That's never more evident than when looking at Jeep's success over the last year.
Jeep is crushing it
Let's start off in Jeep's all-important U.S. market, where the brand is surging and bringing FCA right along with it. Jeep capped off 2014 with a strong December sales performance, its best December ever, in fact, with sales up 19% in year-over-year gains. However, that should be expected, as Jeep has set a monthly record in every single month this year.
Speaking of the full year, Jeep brand 2014 sales were up 41% to 692,348 units in the U.S., compared to 2013 -- that dominated its previous annual record of 554,466 units set in 1999.
Jeep's success, which has historically been largely limited to the U.S., has started to expand globally. Jeep topped the 1 million sales milestone with 1,017,019 vehicles sold globally in 2014. That obliterated its previous record of 731,565, which was set in 2013, by nearly 40%.
Breaking it down further, Jeep sales rose 49% in China -- the world's largest automotive market, and still one of the fastest-growing -- and 40% in Europe. Those gains helped Jeep achieve its fifth consecutive year of rising sales, globally and in the U.S. market. Here's a look at how sales break down per vehicle.
The road ahead
If FCA has anything to say about it, this is only the beginning of Jeep's success story, and the overall automaker will lean on the brand's surging sales amid its business turnaround. This year will continue to be a building-block year for Jeep's globalization strategy. FCA plans to begin manufacturing in Brazil as well as China, where Jeep has been absent for nearly a decade. Jeep's all-new 2015 Renegade is expected to help further boost the brand's appeal worldwide.
During FCA's Investor Day presentation, the goals set for Jeep were ambitious, but attainable. Jeep brand sales in its Latin American region are expected to grow by more than 50% annually. Its Asia-Pacific region sales are expected to increase by roughly 45% annually. The Europe, Middle East, Africa, and North America regions are expected to post respective increases of roughly 35% and 10% annually. This is how Jeep expects all that to wrap up by 2018:
What it all means
Ultimately, FCA may no longer be a Detroit automaker, technically. With that said, it's clear that if investors are eyeing a potential turnaround in FCA's business, and thus market-beating returns, it's going to be largely dependent on its Detroit assets. If you believe the Jeep and Ram Truck brands will continue surging as they have over the previous couple of years, FCA is definitely worthy of further research and a stock to keep on your watchlist.