Jeep's owner, Stellantis, says he's open to dropping the Cherokee name

Jeep’s owner, Stellantis, says he’s open to dropping the Cherokee name

The Jeep owner’s chief said he’s open to dropping the Cherokee name from the cars after recent criticism from the Native American tribe leader.

Carlos Tavares, CEO,

Stilants

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NV, said the company has entered into a dialogue with Cherokee Nation about its use of the name. Jeep has two models, the Cherokee compact SUV and the larger Grand Cherokee, that it sells in the United States and abroad.

When asked in an interview whether he would be willing to change the name of a Jeep Cherokee if pressed to do so, Mr. Tavares said, “We are ready to go to any point, up to the point where we decide with the right people and without the middlemen.”

“At this point, I don’t know if there is a real problem. If there is one, we will of course solve it,” Tavares said, adding that he did not personally participate in the talks.

The Cherokee name controversy was among the issues facing Mister Tavares, who took control of Stelantis when he was Formed earlier this year a merger From Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and maker Peugeot PSA. In the interview on Wednesday, Mr. Tavares also discussed whether to reduce the company’s 14 brands, making Fiat plants more competitive and his plan to stick with China.

Jeep has two models, the compact Cherokee SUV and the larger Grand Cherokee, that it sells in the United States and abroad.


Photo:

FCA / TNS / Abaca Press / Reuters

The Cherokee Nation is the largest Native American tribe in the United States, with a number of 370,000 members, and Jeep has sold millions of cars bearing its name. The auto brand expanded its use of the Cherokee name to its compact SUV, a smaller version of the Grand Cherokee, in 2013.

The Cherokee Nation leader recently said he’d like to see Jeep stop using his tribe’s name in his SUVs. Chuck Hoskin, Jr., the chief president of the Cherokee Nation, said he believes Jeep has good intentions but that “it doesn’t honor us by sticking our name on the side of the car.” According to a statement It was first released to Car and Driver last week.

“The Cherokee Nation has an open dialogue with the Stelantis leadership, and we look forward to the ongoing discussions,” a tribal spokesman said Wednesday. “We appreciate Stellantis’ arrival and a thoughtful approach to this.”


“He does not honor us by sticking our name on the side of the car.”


– Chuck Hoskin Jr., the chief president of the Cherokee Nation

Mr. Tavares’ comments come on the heels of a widespread account of racial and social injustice in the United States sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis during the Memorial Day weekend last year. In December, the Cleveland Indians decided to do so The baseball team title was dropped long ago After fans and Native American groups criticized her as racist. Washington Soccer Team from the NFL Drop a name That was seen as a racist insult.

The Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are some of the brand’s best-selling cars in the United States, accounting for 43% of Jeep sales in its largest market, according to company figures. Stalantis introduces a long-awaited redesign of the Grand Cherokee later this year.

Mr. Tavares said the auto industry’s practice of naming cars after Native American tribes was a sign of respect.

“I don’t see anything going to be negative here,” said Mr. Tavares, “I think it’s just about expressing our creative passion and our artistic capabilities.

The Jeep brand sits side by side with profit drivers such as Ram in the US and Peugeot in Europe. But the company A sprawling portfolio of 14 brands Also include some that will need to be proven worth, Mr. Tavares said.

Mr. Tavares said he asked each of his brand heads to work on a 10-year plan to develop a more long-term vision for product planning.

“I’m saying, ‘Look guys, I’m going to give you a chance. You have to convince me – you, the CEO of the brand – that you have a vision,’ ‘said Mr. Tavares.

After several transformation efforts, Fiat Chrysler’s Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands have failed to make a meaningful comeback in recent years. The Fiat brand has struggled with outdated models and poor sales, which has caused an overcapacity problem at the Italian company’s factories.

Even the storied Chrysler brand has shrunk in recent years, and now it only sells three models compared to the six it carried a decade ago. Sales of the brand in the United States also declined to a third of its volume in 2015, according to company numbers.

On the PSA side, the DS brand – which focuses on luxury sedans and SUVs – increased its market share last year but still lags behind some of its German competitors.

“After we give them a chance to fail, we must also be fair,” said Mr. Tavares. “If the rest of the company is doing the right things and there is one part of the company that pulls everyone off, then we will have to take that into account.”

The Portuguese CEO built his reputation in the auto industry as a turnaround expert. Peugeot was spending the money when it hired Mr. Tavares in 2013. Since then, the French carmaker has gone from losing 5 billion euros, equivalent to about 6 billion dollars, in 2012 to becoming one of the most profitable carmakers in these. Industry . Last year, it reported a net profit of 2.17 billion euros, or nearly $ 2.62 billion, by a revised operating margin of 7.1% on its core auto business.

This time, Mr. Tavares has a longer to-do list, including European companies merging the two companies and stemming losses in China.

In Europe, Mr. Tavares was visiting Fiat Chrysler factories – including the Alfa Romeo facility 80 miles south of Rome – and encouraged it to benchmark its performance against PSA factories. Additionally, employees from Fiat Chrysler’s Fiat plant in Mirafiori, Italy, visited PSA’s Citroën plant in Madrid, and Mr. Tavares said they were surprised by the cost savings they observed.

The CEO of the automobile said the new company could achieve its cost-saving targets in Europe without shutting down factories.

He was asked what lessons he learned from it The chip shortage that brought car factories around the world to a standstillMr. Tavares said the major suppliers had not conveyed the signals they were receiving about the looming crisis. He said, “We were not protected.” “This is a clear lesson that has been learned.”

Chinese regulators are taking a closer look at Tesla’s operations after recent videos surfaced on social media showing a Model 3 battery fire and malfunctioning vehicles. WSJ explains how potential quality issues with Tesla cars could threaten the EV maker’s meteoric rise. Photo illustration: Michelle Inez Simon

Industry, Mr. Tavares said The shift toward electricity It will continue to rely on government subsidies and other financial incentives for buyers until car makers figure out how to reduce production costs over the next few years.

“If we suggest electric vehicles with high efficiency but no one can buy because they are expensive, then what is the benefit from an environmental perspective?” He said.

In China, Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler sales together accounted for less than 1% of the market that sold 20 million cars last year, according to industry data. Fiat Chrysler has long struggled to make profits in the world’s largest auto market, while the French carmaker sold only 45,965 cars in China last year, with the rapid decline continuing for several years.

Mr Tavares said Stellantis was not considering exiting China, removing an option he said was still on the table when the company began trading in New York at the start of this year.

“We cannot stay away from the largest market in the world,” he said.

Write to Nick Kostov at [email protected] and Nora Naughton at [email protected]

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