6

Jeep: A car brand for rich and poor alike

Al Davidson owns a 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, which he takes off-roading on weekends. During the week he uses the Jeep to run his kids to sports practices and to get to work. He owns his own print shop in Orange County, California. 

We make a lot of assumptions about people based on the cars they drive. A driver in a new Mercedes-Benz has money. The person behind the wheel of a new Ford Fiesta may be middle or working class. But there's one auto brand that has managed to attract people across the wealth divide. Car data shows that in new auto sales, Jeep does equally well among people who are making less than ten-thousand dollars a year and those who make over half a million. 

The Orange County Dirt Devils, an off-roading group that volunteers on weekends to help clean up trails in the San Bernardino National Forest, seems to exemplify the data. Castulo Olivas, a member of the group who works in air conditioning, says that aside from the fact that they all drive Jeeps, he doesn't have a lot in common with many of the people in the group.

"I know one guy is a pipeline inspector," Olivas said. "Another guy works in a computer department, does IT. One person does medical sales. You know -- heart valves and stuff. They have professions that require college and people that just work in a gas station. It doesn't matter."

Income Upshot: How people at different incomes live, work and play. A new data interactive from Marketplace's Wealth & Poverty Desk. Try the interactive

If you look at car data based on income, it is stark. There are cars that rich people buy, cars that the middle class buys, and cars that poor people buy. But everyone buys Jeep. Jesse Toprak, an analyst for TrueCar.com says Jeep doesn't have a lot of models, but it has them at both ends of the price spectrum -- from $50,000 to less than $20,000. "You can literally lease some of these vehicles for under $300 a month," Toprak said. "In many cases, if you live in a big city, your mass transit costs might be more than that."

Toprak says maybe more than any other brand, Jeep capitalizes on it's "cool" image. "It does give you that -- hey, I'm not a mom driving a minivan," Toprak said.  Analysts say most Jeep owners never take their Jeeps off-road. But the point is -- they could if they wanted to. 

About the author

Noel King is a reporter for Marketplace's Wealth and Poverty desk.
Log in to post6 Comments

Love my Jeep. Bought it when I was poor, kept it now that I have a 'real job'. It is like having an adult Lego set, and they are FUN!

I'd love to have a Jeep. Planning to buy a Motor Home and need a tow behind vehicle to drive when I get there. Right now I am dealing with a 2004 Hyundai Elantra which my grandaughter dumped when she moved up to a newer Ford Fusion. I had a 1991 Isuzu Trooper with only 62000 miles, but the AC went up and was too costly to repair. Hyandai yes Hyundai. Oh Well, I guess I can keep looking for my bargain Jeep and see what happens.

Doesn't change the fact that Jeeps still are over=priced and have serious QC problems. Your story should also have taken into account which part of the country people are living in and what they do recreationally; if you're a skier living in the west, or a fly fisherman or a sailor with a trailerable boat, your choice of vehicles is influenced by this a lot more than by income. Not a lot of Mercedes (or Jeeps!) to be found in ski area parking lots, though the luxury SUV probably holds true.
surprising, though, that a show produced in the west didn't somehow include this in your story.

There are a lot of "wannabe" buyers of fine cars from my experience. They don't mind long term financing, I guess.

64% of the middle class has been married once or more, and 14% have never been married. I guess for the remaining 22% "it's complicated"?

^ remaining 22% probably aren't legally permitted to 'marry'

And speaking for someone who's never been married, I contest that broken heart icon for the singles. What is this, the 50s? (Cue up 'someday my prince will come'. Give me a break!)

With Generous Support From...