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Via Automotive News

The king of off-road goes electric, reaches upscale, thinks bigger

Jeep Wrangler 4XE JL PHEV Hybrid.jpg


August 8, 2020

Jeep is in a transformative period.

While the spotlight is on the adventure brand's upcoming off-road joust with the Ford Bronco, another larger development is taking place: Jeep is setting itself up to gain ground everywhere else.

By the end of 2021, Jeep will have a varied powertrain portfolio that plays in the electrified and diesel spaces, while its new three-row options and redesigned Grand Cherokee bring fresh competition to the crossover world.

On top of that, a V-8-powered Wrangler appears close, which could add an intriguing option to the off-road war with the Bronco.

A slowed economy could hamper Jeep's progress, just like the rest of industry, but a lack of offerings won't be on its list of problems.

The brand has been checking off boxes on its fan wish list with models such as the Gladiator pickup, a diesel Wrangler and a stronger V-8 Wrangler — which still bears the "concept" tag but has been spotted undergoing road tests.

The loyalists are getting their fill. But can Jeep attract new buyers to the brand with its slate of new options?

Taking the brand upstream with the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, which will start production in the second quarter of 2021 at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit, is one avenue to drawing Jeep newcomers.

"Having a new Grand Cherokee would be beneficial. But then with some of these other vehicles, Jeep is taking the fight to Land Rover, and perhaps all the way up to Range Rover," Tyson Jominy, J.D. Power's vice president of data and analytics, told Automotive News.

"The only way it's going to work is if it attracts new customers. It's a play for really capitalizing on the name Jeep and the image, so I think it will have to attract new customers, and it's ultimately just going to depend on the execution," he said.

A global force
But fulfilling late Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne's vision of Jeep as a global power required an expansion of what the brand was producing, said analyst Karl Brauer.

While the premium Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will play to American appetites for big utility vehicles, the foray into electrification could broaden Jeep's base, make it more accessible to drivers in Europe and China and help FCA meet government emission regulations. All Jeep models will offer electrification by 2022.

"We know electric vehicles are a much bigger deal with China," Brauer said. "They're going to be pushed more aggressively in China and in Europe than they are in the U.S. in the near term. So having electrification, and potentially an all-electric version of the Jeep, will be a key part of maintaining and building brand equity and brand power within those markets."

During a July 31 earnings call with investors, FCA CEO Mike Manley said Jeep's electrification plan is "well underway."

More hybrids

Manley said the plug-in hybrid versions of the Renegade and Compass, sporting the Jeep line's new 4xe badge to indicate their electric capabilities, are leading the way for the brand's entry into the EV market in Europe.

Production began in June, Manley said, and both vehicles are available for order across Europe.

The hybrid Wrangler will arrive in U.S. showrooms by the end of year, with Manley saying that it will be on the front line of Jeep's electrification strategy in North America. The hybrid off-roader will go on sale in Europe and China in early 2021.

"We're doing a lot on the electrified-vehicle front, and early orders from our partners and customers are coming in strongly," Manley told investors.

"In fact, I think we can confirm that we fully expect to be compliant in Europe with the combinations of our strategies."

The plug-in Wrangler will get a global reveal sometime in the third quarter, Manly said. Jeep teased the electrified Wrangler last month with a video showing it silently drive through the wilderness.

A plug-in Jeep could blend well with the brand's outdoorsy image on the marketing front.

Brauer said the brand will be able to leverage the idea of using the Wrangler to power camp equipment. Then there's the performance component.

"As long as it's off-road-capable, and the hybridization of it increases the torque even a little bit, that's right in their wheelhouse," said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions. "All they have to do is say, 'Look how capable this thing is — and it gets better gas mileage?"

On the other side of diversification sits the diesel Wrangler, a product of what Jeep called "overwhelming consumer demand," and a diesel-powered Gladiator that could soon join the lineup?.

Manley said Jeep's upcoming three-row crossover will go into production in the first quarter of 2021. He said the new three-row is going into a "white space that offers the potential for a very strong margin."

Gearing up

The next-generation Grand Cherokee, which impressed one dealer who saw a sneak peek of the design, will start rolling off the assembly line in the third quarter of 2021.

Steve Wolf, dealer principal at Helfman Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram-Fiat in Houston, said the Wagoneer and the more upscale Grand Wagoneer are tailor-made for his market. He's committed to the future of the brand and is building a Jeep showroom at his store to highlight its products.

He's been wanting a big utility vehicle to match up with models such as the Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Escalade for more than 20 years.

"We think we're going to get a lot of those people that would have bought Tahoe/Suburban and Navigator/Escalade," Wolf said?. "We're going to make a big investment to upgrade our store and create a competitive market."
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Nomad

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As long as the 392 comes as a 2dr I would consider a trade.
 

DanW

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What's the electric only range on this thing supposed to be? What is the gas engine in it? 3.6?
 

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What's the electric only range on this thing supposed to be? What is the gas engine in it? 3.6?
rumor is about 30 miles all electric, paired with a 2.0 liter turbo I4 with etorque
 

Bren

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rumor is about 30 miles all electric, paired with a 2.0 liter turbo I4 with etorque
30 miles would be pretty decent actually. I'm encouraged by the quote about powering a campsite. It suggests a mode that lets the engine charge the batteries to full. That's counter-intuitive on-road, but super useful for exactly the use case they're suggesting.
 

KSpider

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30 miles would be pretty decent actually. I'm encouraged by the quote about powering a campsite. It suggests a mode that lets the engine charge the batteries to full. That's counter-intuitive on-road, but super useful for exactly the use case they're suggesting.
the last PHEV I owned had 3 driving modes you could set.
-All electric
-hybrid
-battery saving (so if you were highway driving it would keep the battery full for use when you got to your destination /city driving)

that last mode would probably be like what they are talking about to keep your battery for camping or whatnot.
 

cosine

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rumor is about 30 miles all electric, paired with a 2.0 liter turbo I4 with etorque
idk, but 30 mile range to me, does not impress me along with a high price option. might be useful for onsite camping. still i dont see this being worth the money. beside that, when i'm camping. i do not want to rely on electric for anything. i'm old school camper.
 

cosine

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the 392 could be interesting to see. perhaps offering it in a gladiator. the only thing i see happening is that jeep will only put the 392 in certain models and jack up the price. now if jeep offers the 392 option in base model with d44 axles. that could interest some folks.
 

cosine

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As long as the 392 comes as a 2dr I would consider a trade.
that would be cool. however, i dont think it will happen because thats a big motor for a 2 door jl. the 285 hp 3.6 is plenty fast. put the 392 in a jlu and the gladiator would fit better.
 

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idk, but 30 mile range to me, does not impress me along with a high price option. might be useful for onsite camping. still i dont see this being worth the money. beside that, when i'm camping. i do not want to rely on electric for anything. i'm old school camper.
30 miles all electric is actually a good amount for a PHEV.
 

DanW

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30 miles all electric is actually a good amount for a PHEV.
Yep, that would get me to work and back and a little further if I plug in while there.
 

Thinman

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30 miles all electric has got to translate to at least 55 mpg hybrid. I wonder how much of a fuel tank they will be able to fit.

You'd only need around 10 gallons to get >500 mile range out of it.

Going to be interesting for sure, especially if they can keep the weight down.
 

Yolobaggins

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I read somewhere that these will be announce this year for immediate ordering is that correct?

Been waiting to pull the trigger on a Wangler for a while but then the Bronco came out but then the PHEV was going to come out before the Bronco so I am all over the place!

The PHEV will be perfect for me as it will be a huge daily driver and I have wanted an electric car for years, I feel they will be the norm and in the future one way or another
 

jessedacri

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that would be cool. however, i dont think it will happen because thats a big motor for a 2 door jl. the 285 hp 3.6 is plenty fast. put the 392 in a jlu and the gladiator would fit better.

Plenty of small cars out there with big motors though - and the few 2 door Wrangler hemi swaps I've seen are beasts. I think it could go either way, because the gas tank is certainly a bit small for a massive V8. The fuel gauge drops very fast on my 2 dr 3.6.
 
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