Curbside Newsstand: Jeep Hopes Bill Murray Can Reverse Sales Slide

Celebrity endorsements always help generate buzz. And there’s no better time to feature one than during the Super Bowl. Remember when Matthew Broderick spoofed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to plug a CR-V? And who can forget Eminem’s appearance in that Chrysler ad? This weekend, Jeep will air an ad featuring none other than Bill Murray. And he’ll apparently be doing some sort of homage to one of his most famous roles.

Murray is a strange choice to represent Jeep. Then again, he’s a strange choice for just about any product. In any event, Jeep needs to do something to generate business, because the brand isn’t as popular as it used to be.

Jeep finished 2019 with somewhat disappointing numbers. The Cherokee, Compass, and Renegade all experienced double digit declines compared to the prior year. Wrangler sales dropped five percent too. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Jeep’s compact crossovers all share the same platform and are almost certainly profitable. The Wrangler’s decreased popularity can easily be explained away by the generational changeover in 2018 that saw FCA boost production of the previous model in a bid to generate additional sales. And the Gladiator debuted to much fanfare.

On the other hand, Jeep recently announced it will idle the Belvidere, Illinois plant that produces the Cherokee and dealers are heavily discounting the Gladiator. With falling demand and no new vehicles officially on the horizon, the brand could use a jolt of energy.

It’s certainly no coincidence that Jeep’s Bill Murray Super Bowl ad will air on Groundhog’s Day. Murray is most likely pulling a Broderick and will star in an ad that recalls the best parts of the movie. Rumor has it his co-stars were also seen at the film shoot, which took place in the same town where the movie was originally filmed.

To me, the ideal Groundhog’s Day themed commercial would have Ned Ryerson pull up next to Phil (Bill Murray) in a Jeep Gladiator and explain that he’s a Jeep salesperson now. He’d say something like “you know, whenever I see a customer looking to buy I go after them like a bull. Ned the bull. That’s me now. I have friends of mine that live and die by the miles per gallon and I say hey! It’s all one big crapshoot anyhoot. Have you heard of the Command-Trac four-wheel drive system? I think this pickup really could be the ticket for you.”

Phil originally just walks away from him the first time. But once he realizes that he’s stuck in the time loop Phil punches Ned in the face, steals the Jeep and the groundhog, and drives it right off the cliff.

You never get Bill Murray to sell something because Bill Murray doesn’t sell things. Hopefully Jeep understands that.