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5 Questions With Jeep Boss Bill Peffer

We ask Jeep’s new North American chief about the present and future of Stellantis’ most iconic brand 

Bill Peffer, Jeep's new North American chief
  • Jeep's Bill Peffer previously returned Maserati's North American arm back to profitability.
  • Peffer says Jeep will focus on new products like EVs without alienating its core customers.
  • Peffer vows to respect Jeep's core of off-road customers.

In December, Bill Peffer was appointed the senior vice president in charge of the Jeep brand at Stellantis. At the 2024 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, we got the chance to sit down with Peffer to discuss the challenges he faces in bringing this iconic brand into the future while respecting its past. 

Peffer's background in the automotive industry includes posts as chief operating officer at Kia’s North American operations and more recently running the Maserati brand at Stellantis. During his tenure at Maserati, the brand returned to profitability as North American sales increased to near prepandemic levels. 

Jeep is a bigger challenge. Last year's sales were 44% below their 2018 peak, and not all of it is due to discontinuing the compact Cherokee and subcompact Renegade. Sales of the full-size Wagoneer family significantly trail class leaders like the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition, and while we think the new Grand Cherokee is nice, its pricing quickly puts it into luxury territory.

Peffer is also taking over as Jeep prepares to introduce its first all-electric models, the Wagoneer S and Recon, and that’s where we began our discussion.


How will Jeep keep its core happy with electric models?

“We’re following what the industry is doing in terms of moving to electrification and alternative propulsion systems,” Peffer said. The electric Wagoneer S is more on-road-focused, like most of the electric SUVs in the segment, but Peffer says the off-road-focused Recon will “respect the core of what a Jeep customer wants in a Jeep.” Jeep is also continuing with the installation of EV charging stations at national parks around the country, with three installed so far and more to come.

However, Peffer also noted that some traditional Jeep customers simply won’t go electric. “It’s important to point out that we understand our core, we understand the community, and there’s a subset that will not consider an alternative propulsion system.” It’s with that overall goal that Peffer says Jeep will cater to all of its customers, not just EV shoppers. “We want to broaden the reach, not necessarily target a subset of that reach through one strategy.”

Will Jeep continue to court aftermarket support with its EVs?

The importance of the aftermarket to the Jeep brand is inescapable — something I experienced in a modified Wrangler with Jeep Performance Parts at the 2024 Easter Jeep Safari. While noting the built-in capability of Jeep’s lineup, Peffer also noted that “people want to personalize them, so it’s a big market and industry and of course we want to expand.”

Jeep recently spun JPP off into a separate division, and Peffer notes it provides a “proof point with engineering and warranty and with a group of products and accessories that are backed by the company.” As for its future electric vehicles, Peffer can’t comment on specifics but says, “We'll be looking for what opportunities we have in all of our products.”

2024 Easter Jeep Safari concept group shot

What lessons will Peffer apply from Maserati’s turnaround?

Peffer notes that there are lessons to be learned from Maserati’s turnaround, noting both brands are iconic but that “the issues, while similar in some cases, are different.” At the core for both is product. “The product has to be very good, pinnacle in its segment, and we were able to do that with Maserati,” Peffer said. Then there are dealers, who “have to be able to make a return on the investments that they make,” Peffer said. Most dealers are multi-branded, and Peffer knows they’ll spread their resources where they can get the best return. 

Obviously, Jeep and Maserati appeal to different buyers and budgets. But Peffer believes that Jeep’s ace in the hole is the fact that it’s, well, Jeep.

“How do you remain a good steward of this brand that has such a rich history over 80-plus years?” he asks. “That’s what the objective is here, bringing out products to widen the reach while respecting the core and being a really good steward of this brand as we evolve into a different era.” 

How will Jeep regain its sales momentum?

When asked directly about growing sales, Peffer notes that through March of 2024, Jeep has grown its market share, and sales figures for the first quarter of the year are up 2%. To grow that further, Peffer again notes that product is key, as is focusing on a core model strategy.

“We’ve introduced now a family of Grand Cherokees, and helping us grow in that segment is the fact we have a two-row, we have a three-row, and we have a 4xe [PHEV],” he said, noting that the three-row Grand Cherokee L competes where 75% of the segment is. Peffer also looks to the future, hoping to grow the brand with its new EV offerings, especially the Wagoneer S. There are also more straightforward methods. “We’re mindful of competition and we’ve rolled back prices in light of the effects of inflation.”


2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid

Any thoughts on the competition, like Bronco and 4Runner?

Peffer indirectly commented on Jeep's competitors by noting the enthusiasm and heritage Jeep inspires with events like EJS. “What other event in the country has a specific model attached to it where you’ve got 20,000 evangelists who come to one area annually for the last 60 years?” he asks. “We recognize we have that, we have to respect it and keep it,” he added, noting that respecting what people love about the brand, especially its halo Wrangler, is key to maintaining Jeep’s authenticity. 

Edmunds says

Rebuilding sales to their 2018 peak is a tall order, but there’s potential for upward trends in Jeep sales. It’s good to hear Peffer say that Jeep will focus on product, and the price cuts for 2024 are definitely a step in the right direction. That said, while we understand why Jeep cut the Renegade and Cherokee, Edmunds ranks the holdover Compass near the bottom of its class; an all-new model can’t come soon enough. We’d also suggest a more streamlined trim structure; for example, there are nine different trims for the 2024 Grand Cherokee, not including drivetrain or seating options. We’re excited to see the new EVs of course, but competition is tougher than ever, and Jeep will need to keep its foot to the floor to keep pace.