Riding on the back of the “I bought a Jeep” blanket advertising campaign of a decade ago, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia sold 100,000 Jeeps to people mostly new to the brand.
But indifferent quality and flawed aftermarket systems and policies at the OEM, which left dealers completely unable to fix problems in a timely way, saw the brand attract public comments such as: ‘You’ll only ever buy one Jeep’.
FCA Australia is now publicly acknowledging the issue and going back into the market with a new campaign saying that its problems are behind them and that it is safe to go back into the water.
The TVC starts with the familiar scene (using the same actors) from the original campaign where a woman returns from buying a car and tells her surprised partner (Michael) that ‘She bought a Jeep’.
In the latest campaign she turns to the camera and says: “And so did over 100,000 other Australians.
“But for some owning a Jeep wasn’t as enjoyable as driving one which is why Jeep have now committed to cut-price servicing and more dedicated technical specialists. So every driver will be looked after. What do you think of that Michael?”
To which ‘Michael’ runs out the new tag line for the brand: “I’m in.”
In March this year, the newly-appointed chief of FCA Australia, Kevin Flynn, told GoAutoNews Premium, that Jeep’s failure to keep up with the huge explosion in sales for the brand under the ‘I Bought A Jeep’ advertising campaign in the early part of the last decade had left a massive gap in customer care responses that had wounded the brand dearly.
But he said that the company was putting in place a completely new regime for handling customer complaints including a ‘flying doctor’ in each region with the power to intercede and settle reliability issues the minute the problem is flagged by its call centre or a dealer.
He said in March that when the company was certain it could manage its customer promise it would launch this new TV campaign which would spread to other media as well.
The brand’s woes culminated in Queenslander Ashton Wood who publicly destroyed a $50,000 Jeep online because he could not get satisfaction from FCA Australia to address the issues with his Cherokee.
Mr Flynn said of the new arrangements: “If we sense that there is going to be an issue we have the ‘flying doctors’ in the region and they go straight in.
“The idea is that first of all we fix the customer and then we fix the product. Because whenever there is a vehicle that has gone wrong, or a frustration, at the end of the day the issue you have to address is not just fixing the car you have to make sure the customer is confident in the process we are going through.
“Even though there has been a negative, we must try to turn it into a positive so we can retain and keep that customer’s belief in us. When you leave it too long or ignore it then that just festers and becomes an issue. So ignore it at your peril.
“Once that ‘flying doctor’ is there and fixes the issue, we can immediately identify what happened. Was there an issue in the dealer’s capability and how do we help to bridge that gap?
“But I don’t want them just fixing the car and the customer. That is the priority but also let us learn so that we can get better and better at what we do.”
Referring to the vacuum in customer support that followed the big increase in sales, Mr Flynn said: “What a different place we would be in now if we had actually plugged that gap and been really passionate about the Jeep experience.”
Mr Flynn said that aftersales had caused 80 per cent of Jeep’s issues but Jeep had also “been on a journey on product quality as well”.
“I think product quality today really does not deliver the number of challenges that perhaps it did in the past. There is no shadow of doubt there are no technical concerns with the product today,” he said then.
Mr Flynn told media news publication, Mumbrella, that the brand’s rapid growth in Australia came at the cost of customer experience.
“We’re the first to admit we grew too big, too fast.
“Unfortunately, in the process we left some drivers behind. That’s why we’ve made big changes to Jeep in Australia with reduced running costs, improved technical support and dedicated customer care.
“We’ve listened, we’ve changed, and there’s no turning back,” Mr Flynn said.
By John Mellor