The “Jeep wave” is a tradition among Wrangler drivers, symbolizing loyalty, fraternity, and a common passion for adventure and freedom. For Peter Catanese III, waving to other Jeep enthusiasts as they pass on the highway is just one of the reasons he loves being a “Jeeper.”
Catanese is the mastermind behind JustForJeeps.com, a website that sells Mopar parts, equipment manufactured for Chrysler vehicles such as Jeeps. The site, which operates out of his family’s dealership, Central Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Norwood, draws about 3,000 visitors a day and generated $2 million in parts sales last year, including to drivers in the Australian Outback and Tahiti.
The site also sells accessories and gear. “Jeep owners are among the most loyal,” said Catanese. “Their enthusiasm is endless.”
This summer, you held the first annual Jeep Festival at the dealership. How did Jeep owners respond?
It was a rainy day in August, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but 300 Jeep owners showed up with their vehicles, mainly Wranglers. We had raffles, country music, and just hung out. One of our slogans was, “Jeeps, Jeeps, Jeeps! It’s a Jeep thing — you wouldn’t understand.”
Jeeps used to have a reputation for unreliability — is that still the case?
Not at all — Jeeps are completely different now. Starting in early 2000, the entire Jeep and Dodge brand changed.
What’s the most popular item you sell?
Even more than parts, Jeep clothing — like children’s Jeep overalls — are popular. In the last year, we’ve also sold a lot of cargo liners, splash guards, tote bags, and folding chairs. Running boards, or side steps, as well as roof racks also go quickly.
How did you happen to start JustforJeeps.com?
After I finished college, I started working at the dealership, but I just didn’t enjoy the price- haggling part of my job, and one day, a Mopar sales rep visited and told me about how another dealer was attracting a lot of customers selling Mopar parts online. I decided we needed to do the same thing.
Did you expect to be selling worldwide?
We have shipped anywhere you can think of, including Vanuatu, a remote island in the South Pacific where one of the “Survivor” seasons was filmed.
Of all Jeeps, which is your favorite?
The Wrangler. It’s practical and a lot of fun, and practically the only car where other drivers wave to you. I recently put the Wrangler to the test at the Rocky Mountain Terrain Park in Maine. I often thought, “We’re going to tip over” or “I can’t go up that incline,” but the car proved me wrong.
Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.