Chrysler Looks to Grand Cherokee to Boost Sales in Japan

Chrysler Group is looking to its redesigned 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee to boost sales in Japan by 21 percent or more this year.

Although a mere 88 Grand Cherokees were sold in Japan in 2009, Chrysler Japan president Toshiyuki Shimegi said he expects to sell between 500 and 1,000 of its top-tier SUVs the year. He predicts the automaker’s total sales in Japan to reach above 3,000 this year.

The redesigned Grand Cherokee is set to launch in Japan on March 12. In the U.S., the Grand Cherokee is available in three models. The 2011 Jeep Laredo is priced from $30,995 for the 4×2. The base price for the 4×4 Laredo is $32,995. The Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 is priced from $39,995, and pricing for the Overland 4×4 starts at $42,995.

In 1996, Chrysler sold five times that many vehicles in Japan, but the company’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization forced it to reduce its overseas operations budgets and tarnished its image at home and abroad.

The following year, total sales of Dodge, Jeep and the company’s flagship brand, Chrysler, rose about 15 percent in Japan. The Japanese government’s scrapping incentives were credited in part for the sale of 760 Jeep Patriots in 2010.  The Patriot remains the most popular Chrysler product in Japan.

Chrysler Japan’s marketing boss, Alessandro Saita, said of dealers, “Most of our investors need to be convinced we have the product. That’s been difficult over the past couple of years.”

Although the newly revamped Grand Cherokee is set to launch soon, other new models will not be available in Japan until much later in the year.

The redesigned Chrysler 300C sedan is expected to launch in Japan during the fourth quarter of this year or early 2012. The 300C is the only Chrysler car currently available in Japan.  Selection is similarly limited for the automaker’s other brands. The Nitro SUV is the only Dodge vehicle currently available in Japan. The Chrysler 200 sedan is not expected to arrive in dealer showrooms in Japan until sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.

In addition to increasing its offering in Japan, Chrysler also plans to expand its dealer network over time. In the 1990s, Chrysler vehicles were available in Japan at about 2,000 Honda dealerships. Today, Chrysler’s Japan sales network consists of only 29 dealers with 52 stores. Chrysler plans to add three new stores by the end of this year.

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