Jeep CEO Mike Manley announced at their LA Auto Show press conference that the new Jeep Wrangler will include a plug-in option in 2020.
Jeep has shown a plug-in hybrid concept before, the Yuntu SUV which they displayed at the 2017 Shanghai auto show. And there have been rumors for some time that the Wrangler, Jeep’s most iconic vehicle, would eventually gain a hybrid powertrain.
So far, we have no specifics about their electric powertrain. All we got was one sentence at the end of the presentation: “A full plug-in electric Jeep Wrangler will be available in 2020, furthering our commitment to all those who value the responsible, sustainable enjoyment of the great outdoors, and very importantly future proofing this Wrangler for generations to come.” But upon clarification it seems the Jeep will actually be a plug-in hybrid, rather than fully electric. Baby steps.
There are a few other early entries into this market: the Nikola UTV which Fred recently drove and Bollinger’s very cool minimalist all-electric truck, for example. But Jeep is clearly a much bigger name than these and Wrangler is as iconic as you can get.
Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Jeep’s parent company, has had somewhat of a tortured past when it comes to electric vehicles. Their CEO Sergio Marchionne has repeatedly said negative things about electric cars, including recently stating that “electrification is not the answer.” But his company’s subsidiaries make a pretty popular and successful electric car in the Fiat 500e, the Pacifica Hybrid looks like it’s quite a good plug-in offering, and their premier vehicle the LaFerrari is hybrid. Now Jeep is jumping on the bandwagon as well.
Perhaps Marchionne’s statements are just bluster, intended to move the needle, to try to stop regulators from ending the free ride polluting vehicles have gotten for too long, but behind those words FCA seems to be slowly moving, like the rest of the industry, towards electrics rather than away from them. Actions speak louder than words, but it would be nice to see more positive action and fewer negative words regardless.
Jeep CEO Mike Manley’s statement shows that perhaps he’s capable of a little more prescience than his boss. Not only did he state elsewhere in his presentation that the powertrain choices are a response to customer demand and not do what many automotive CEOs do and complain that the electric option only exists to appease regulators, he also stated that this is a strategic move on Jeep’s part, both to appeal to their nature-loving audience and to make sure that the brand remains relevant into the future. Good on him for that…
As a former Jeep owner and current electric vehicle owner myself, this is great news. One of the things I like about driving electric is the ability to take the car on a nature drive and actually hear what’s going on around me, to hear birds chirping rather than the incessant gasp of an internal combustion engine. So, adding off-road capability to that (which is understandably lacking on my Tesla Roadster), the ability to take a car into the wilderness, to stop and smell fresh air rather than exhaust and dripping oil, will be quite nice. For those who enjoy being in nature without destroying too much of it, this move takes Jeep a little closer to that.