You know this EV thing is getting serious when it affects the thinking of the suits inside the corporate offices of Jeep. Apparently, alarmed by how the Tesla Model 3 is outselling the BMW 3 Series and the prospect of the Jaguar I-PACE electric SUV landing on US shores later this year, the solons at Jeep have decided the time has come to dip a toe into the electrified vehicle shark tank by offering a plug-in hybrid powertrain option to its customers in a year or two — or maybe three.
First out of the chute will be a mild hybrid version of the newest Jeep Wrangler, which is expected in showrooms later this year. Yup, you read that right — “mild hybrid,” as in, the same greenwashing hocus pocus GM tried to pawn off on pickup truck customers a decade ago. Way to lead from the rear, Jeep!
Sometime in 2020, a plug-in hybrid option will be available for the Wrangler, probably in time for the 2021 model year. “That’s just the natural evolution we’re seeing in the industry,” Scott Tallon, director of the Jeep brand at FCA North America, tells Trucks.com. “As consumers continue to demand more of this technology and convenience we’ll continue to develop our Jeeps that way.” Sure you will, Scott. And at the same time, you will be pushing Trumperica to eviscerate the fuel economy and emissions standards that make offering plug-in hybrid models necessary in the first place.
Tallon claims with a straight face that Jeep people care about emissions and the environment. That statement is patently false on its face. If Jeep people cared a fig about emissions, they wouldn’t be driving a Jeep in the first place.
In reality, an all-electric powertrain would be ideal for the Jeep faithful who actually take their vehicles off road. Instant torque available to any wheel at any time is addicting and something few Jeeps offer at the present time. When I test drove the Jaguar I-PACE in Portugal recently, the Jaguar folks made sure to include some real off-road challenges in the test drive loop, including fording a fast-flowing mountain stream.
Sitting in the drivers seat on a steep, slippery incline listening to each individual tire scrabbling for traction was something you need to experience to believe. Such capability would put a permanent smile on the face of any true Jeep enthusiast. But Tallon refused to speculate on whether his company has any plans for a battery electric vehicle in the foreseeable future.
“I expect that a Jeep EV will have a sufficiently Jeep personality, based on the company’s ability to execute on that point extremely well in most efforts,” says Stepanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Markit. “Initially, it won’t see much volume, but it can demonstrate the brand is progressive enough to be able to embrace change, and I think that mentality aligns well with Jeep purists, as long as the capability is there.”
Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “Better late than never.” Few realize that is only part of the adage. The rest of it goes like this: “But better never late.” Jeep may get the first part right — eventually — but they obviously know nothing about the second part. It’s all “me too” posturing and playing catch-up for a traditional American car company that refuses to recognize changes in the marketplace and react to them in a timely fashion.