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By MARY CONNELLY | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS


DETROIT -- Seven months after the launch of the Commander SUV, Jeep is spending heavily to subsidize sales.

In February, Jeep shelled out an average $5,461 per unit in Commander incentives, according to the Power Information Network.

Jeep's spending on the Commander outpaced by $1,803 per unit the average for the mid-sized SUV category, PIN says. In February, the midsized-SUV segment averaged $3,658, the data say.

"It is definitely a warning signal," says Tom Libby, PIN analyst.

"They are trying to keep inventory turning by lowering the price through incentives," Libby says. "But obviously the vehicle is under pressure already."

The Chrysler group had a 101-day supply of the Commander with 29,900 units on March 1. Commander incentives increased $2,203 from January to February, PIN says. In January, the average per-unit outlay was $3,258, the data say.

Incentives are 'on par'

Michael Berube, senior manager of Jeep marketing, defends the Commander's launch and incentive spending.

"We don't see we are spending more than the competitors," he says. "We feel we are on par in the segment."

Dealer transaction information underlying the PIN data may not fully capture subsidized leases and discounted sales to fleets, Berube says.

The PIN data does not include fleet sales, Libby says. The retail transaction data is generated from over 10,000 reporting franchises, he says.

"The incentive data include 13 different types of incentives and includes lease incentives. It is very comprehensive," Libby says.

Commander sales totaled 7,091 units in February and 4,209 in January. Since the Commander's introduction in September, sales total 28,348 units. Chrysler will not disclose a sales target.

The Commander is delivering incremental sales to Jeep, Berube says.

At introduction, Jeep tightly controlled the flow of vehicles to showrooms to monitor quality although some dealers sought more product, he says.

Face-off with Aspen

The Commander soon will face more competition in Chrysler-Jeep showrooms.

The Chrysler Aspen, an SUV based on the Dodge Durango, arrives in the fall. That may give Chrysler-Jeep stores three SUVs in the same general category and price range.

For example, the sticker price of the base Commander 4x4 is $30,235, including shipping. The sticker of the Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4 is $30,080, including shipping.

Chrysler has not priced the Aspen. The base price of the platform-mate Durango SXT 4x4 is $31,825, including shipping .

Jeep has tried to separate the Commander from the Grand Cherokee by stressing the Commander's seven-passenger seating. But Aspen, too, seats seven.

"It is not a Grand Cherokee and Commander issue," says Steven Lee, general manager of Ed Voyles Chrysler-Jeep in Marietta, Ga. "I thought it was going to be, but it's not.

"Aspen? That we are worried about."

Sales of the Commander are rising on the strength of the spring selling season and incentives, Lee says. The store sold seven units in January and nine units in February, and it expects to do "20-plus" in March, he says.

autonews
 

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I certainly hope nobody at Jeep was surprised by this. I don't think anybody in his/her right mind would have pegged the Commander as a hit.

Why is DC trying to cannibalize the SUVs like that? I thought car companies were trying to make their lineup more lean. I don't understand why they'd offer 3 SUVs, most likely all will be similarly priced, that fall into the same category.

The only thing that Jeep makes any more that might get my undersides stirred up is the SRT8 Jeep..or whatever they call that speed demon of theirs.
 

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That Commander is appealing to those who had an old school Cherokee I think. Otherwise, it's no bigger than a Durango, which is DCs largest domestic SUV offering. Look at the hordes of Tahoes and Expeditions being purchased by todays soccer mom. They equate size to power. Besides, the Commander is no roomier than a Grand Cherokee up front, it's only plus is an available Hemi motor.
 

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91Integracer said:
I've got a cherokee.. and I Love the commander. hopefully the price will drop so I can pick one up.
Have fun with the Commander's resale value then.
 

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The Commander has a dated look. It's like an old Grand Cherokee. I was pretty surprised when I saw it. It's like they went backwards to get a retro look.
Oddly enough, I think they should have made it boxier and more retro, so it would resemble an old-fashioned Land Cruiser or Land Rover.
 
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