Jeep is celebrating its 80th anniversary by reiterating its commitment to go electric, with the company appearing unworried about whether the demand exists for electric off-road vehicles.
“Many people want an electric Jeep,” says Christian Meunier, CEO of the Jeep brand. “Many still want an internal combustion engine Jeep. But it’s not one against the other. I think it’s going to be an evolution. And we’ll be able to attract a lot of new customers. They wouldn’t buy it only because it’s electric, they buy it because it’s a better Jeep.”
The company didn’t provide any details on the first full battery-electric Jeep model slated for production, but the Jeep lineup is expected to look drastically different than the current 4x4 family by 2025. The plan is to have a zero-emission, full-electric Jeep in every SUV segment with expectations that 70 per cent of Jeep sales will be electrified by 2025.
“Jeep is cool, but Jeep was not seen as sustainable. And now electrification is giving us an opportunity to expand,” Meunier says.
“Electrified” includes full battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, and some alternative power trains and technologies. Meunier anticipates not all customers will buy full BEVs and the market won’t be 100 per cent BEV in 2025, but it will gradually evolve towards 100 per cent electric. “We believe it’s [Jeep is] going to be a hell of a proposal in the marketplace in four years time,” he adds.
Under the umbrella of Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest automaker, which owns Jeep and 13 other brands, four battery electric vehicle platforms – three unibody platforms and one body-on-frame platform, will be developed. The platforms will have an electric range between 500 to 800 kms and be available in front-drive, rear-drive, all-wheel drive and 4xe, a drive mode unique to Jeep vehicles.
Meunier acknowledges that many customers, especially hardcore Jeep lovers, were “a little bit doubtful originally” about an electrified Jeep. “When you have an opportunity to drive an electric Jeep or a 4xe Jeep plug-in hybrid you realize how much potential you have and how it becomes even more fun and capable,” says Meunier.
Jeep’s approach to electrification is unique, he says, because it’s not only about electrifying the car to be competitive and compliant in the future. “We’re really leveraging the reputation to do something special. 4xe is really the new 4x4 – it delivers open air freedom in silence. There’s nothing more cool or precious than that. You don’t want to come back to ICE when you’ve done it,” says Meunier.
“We’re going to have better Jeeps. They just happen to be electric,” adds Mark Allen, head of Jeep brand design.
Engineers and designers will be able to offer distinct features on their electric vehicles such as a new level of control to each wheel for off-roading, the ability to off-road in complete silence, full electric torque, and new body design elements like a frunk, or front trunk, and a back window you can leave open – with no exhaust fumes you can breathe fresh air in the cabin for a change.
But the big challenge for Jeep is to make the vehicles affordable so people will buy them and to ensure government officials and authorities will expand the grid and infrastructure for charging – which are main barriers to consumer EV adoption.
Jeep’s first foray into electrification came nearly three months ago with the launch of its first plug-in hybrid, the Wrangler 4xe, which has up to 35 kms of all-electric range. The Wrangler 4xe helped drive a sales spike south of the border, making it the number one selling plug-in hybrid in America outselling Toyota, says Meunier. In Canada, Jeep Wrangler 4xe ranks in the top-three selling PHEVs calendar year to date. It also aided in increasing Canadian Jeep sales by 37 per cent in Q2 of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
“Growth for the sake of growth is not our goal. We want to do it in a way that is sustainable and makes the customer happy and excited to be part of the family and the community,” says Meunier.
Demand is high for the Wrangler 4xe; it’s sold out for the remainder of the year in both the US and Canada. But that could also be the result of a lack of supply due to the global semi-conductor chip shortage, which shuttered production at many manufacturing plants world wide.
For now, ICE lives in some vehicles like the new 2022 Jeep Compass, which just debuted at the 2021 Chicago Auto Show this week. Priced starting from $28,695, the reworked compact crossover will land in Canadian dealerships this fall. The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee with its first 4xe plug-in-hybrid technology will be officially unveiled at the 2021 New York International Auto Show in August. And an all-new 2022 Jeep Wagoneer, a luxury full-size SUV with the ability to seat up to eight passengers, will follow later this year.