To solve the shortage problem of hard tops for Jeep Wranglers, Chrysler Group said that production will be raised twice, one at the start of April and one towards the end of that month.
At a Jeep event, Michael Manley, CEO of the Jeep brand, said that the company has been hard at work to raise hard-top capacity. He explained that due to the "tremendous" Wrangler demand, several dealers experienced shortages (particularly hard tops).
In late February, Chrysler dealers were told there would be a shortage of hard tops for the popular Wrangler for several months. The reason cited was "supplier constraint."
In the meantime, Chrysler urged dealers to sell soft-top Wranglers. Doing so poses a challenge since the removable hard-top version is much more popular than the soft top.
Manley said that hard tops previously accounted for 70% of customer demand for Wranglers, but recently, they comprised as much as 80% to 85% of all sales.
Specifically, the shortage stems from the bankruptcy of the original supplier, Meridian Automotive Systems Inc., which filed for Chapter 7 in August 2009.
Continental Structural Plastics Inc. has since taken over the business. Manley announced that Jeep will soon have available a wider range of hard-top options, including colored tops that match the body paint.
In 2009, Jeep sold 82,044 Wranglers in the US, a 3% decline from 2008. This is still quite an accomplishment especially when you consider that the overall market had dropped by 21%. It should be noted that sales figures do not indicate the percentage of hard- and soft-top sales.[via autonews - sub. required]