Sales of the new Jeep Gladiator are far below expectations, so much so that Jeep is offering as much as $13,000 off of a new truck. Why are Gladiator sales so far behind the mechanically similar Wrangler?
It’s hard to miss the obvious. The Gladiator is an expensive small pickup. Starting at just over $33,000 and only going up from there it is $7000 more than the base model Tacoma. The top of the line Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is just under $48,000. A similarly equipped Gladiator will run you over $54,000. It’s easy to spot why the Tacoma is the sales leader in the small truck category. Like the Jeep Wrangler, the Tacoma also holds excellent resale value, it’s too early to gauge how the Gladiator will do.
To give a true comparison between the makes; total Wrangler and Gladiator sales for 2019 were 268,079, (228,000 of those were Wranglers), total Tacoma sales for the same period were 248,801. The Toyota sold almost as many trucks as both Wrangler and Gladiator sales combined, and at a lower price point.
Inconsistent quality with welds, clutches, and steering woes.
The Wrangler currently stands alone as a unique model with no real competition for capability, style, and function. There are better SUVs but none that can compete with the heritage and off-road capability. (The new Bronco may change that.) The Gladiator has to compete with the heritage can capability of the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger nameplates.
Toyota’s quality is legendary. Even if it is no longer as good as it once was in some people’s opinions, it still has a more favorable public view than FCA/Jeep. Multiple recalls for basic vehicle functions do not help Jeep. The latest recall for manual Wrangler/Gladiator vehicles isn’t going to change that. Possibly the biggest issue is the sheer number of complaints about steering on the new platform. Jeep steering has never been great but the new JL/JT platform is sub-par. Loose joints, electric hydraulic pump, and thin-walled tubing all contribute to vague steering input and sometimes front end wobble.
Three things to turn sales around.
Lower the price. Don’t give discounts, just lower the price across the range. $7000 would bring it in line with the competition and you could still offer special editions that cost more.
Ditch the low tech old school equipment. Every version should come with the touch screen interface, LED lights, and tow package. It’s a truck, it tows things.
Fix the damn steering. Put better joints on every component. Use more rigid tubing, and add bracing to the steering box to keep the steering tight and accurate.
Why I hope it turns around.
The Gladiator is a really good truck. It tows smoothly, it has plenty of power, and the ride is better than the Wrangler. That longer wheelbase helps.
Despite the small size, the bed is very functional. It easily hauls a full sheet of plywood. Especially with the design of the tailgate straps. Wrap them around the anchor point and keep the tailgate at a slight upward angle helping to keep loads more secure.
The off-road capability, ability to customize and personalize are unmatched. Losing that would be a travesty after wanting Jeep to make a truck for so long.
What do you think?
Would what I suggested make you buy one? What else do you think the Gladiator needs to be a success.