In a couple of recent ads, Jeep took viewers on an “earth odyssey” to celebrate Earth Day. One ad takes place in a Zoom meeting, with animals discussing the new Wrangler 4xe. The other takes its cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey, with both musical and visual references to the movie.
The Wrangler 4xe
Some readers probably wonder why Jeep thinks it has enough green credibility to run Earth Day ads. It’s a valid question worth discussing.
The Wrangler 4xe is a plug-in hybrid. While that’s not terribly impressive considering other manufacturers have had mass-market full EVs for over a decade, making a Jeep all electric is a tougher proposition. While Electrify America and other CCS charging providers are starting to get some very good coverage along interstate highways and in larger cities, the rural situation in most states isn’t that great at all. Until that problem is better solved, it’s going to be tough for people to get a Jeep out to remote trails on battery power alone.
The plug-in hybrid option splits the difference and helps Jeep owners reduce their emissions by 50-90% in many if not most cases. If your in-town driving is all electric and you only rely on gasoline for weekend wilderness adventures, that’s far, far better than doing all of that on gasoline. Drivers who only rarely leave the city will probably use very little gas.
When you consider that the Wrangler 4xe doesn’t make any off-road compromises, this is a lot more impressive. Instead of optimizing for maximum efficiency like most electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, the 4xe plug-in hybrid has solid axles, a real transfer case, and other features no other mass produced electrified vehicle has at the moment. Making a serious off-road vehicle comes with efficiency costs, so even getting the electric range that it does is quite an accomplishment.
On top of that, we also know that Jeep is getting ready for charging infrastructure to improve. The company is working on all electric Jeeps, but also finding ways to make sure they’re still a Jeep. One test vehicle is the Magneto, which is all electric, but utilizes a manual transmission. We don’t know yet what a full electric Jeep will look like, but they’re clearly trying to make sure there’s a real Jeep experience as they work toward that goal.
Ad #1: Animal Zoom Call
Given how short these ads are, I won’t give a play by play account of them. Just watch it!
Compared to the second one (below), this one wasn’t as fun. It had cute animals, yes, but I think most people are pretty sick of Zoom calls after a year of COVID issues. I personally think this would have been stronger if they actually had some CGI animals actually talking. At the same time, though, it was a little fun and did give a good intro to the second commercial at the end.
Ad #2: Earth Odyssey
The new rechargeable Jeep® Wrangler 4xe will be out of this world. (Coming Early 2021) pic.twitter.com/lilnnzXPEo
— Jeep (@Jeep) December 4, 2020
In some ways, this is a followup to last year’s “monolith” tweet. If you don’t remember, a strange metal object (probably an art installation) was found in the Utah desert. Copycat “monoliths” were found in other places around the world after the one in Utah was removed by some wet blanket volunteers. Jeep photoshopped images of the thing into a charging station for its upcoming Wrangler 4xe.
Now, Jeep is taking the 2001 vibe to the next level:
This one is definitely based on the opening scene and first segment of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, but with much faster pacing to suit modern audiences. The twist is that animals are singing or beating along to the music, and the monolith produces a Jeep Wrangler 4xe, which the animals are grateful for (presumably because they’re not happy about pollution and climate change).
This one came off as a much stronger and more entertaining commercial than the first one, but I’m sure some readers may differ. If that’s you, tell us why in the comments or on Twitter.
Some Things We Can Learn About Jeep Here
One important takeaway here is that Jeep is serious about selling people a Wrangler 4xe. We’ve seen many automakers create a limited-range EV or plugin hybrid for regulatory purposes (emissions credits, raising fleet MPG, etc) and then not work very hard to get them sold. At worse, we’ve even seen executives ask people to NOT buy one. Dealers seemed to be following the lead, and left their EVs and PHEVs on the back of the lot, not charge them up, and not direct buyers to consider them. I once even went to test drive a Chevy Volt, only to find out it had a flat.
Jeep is putting in real money to get people to consider the 4xe, though. These ads look like the ad agency put in a fair amount of time making them, as well as whatever licensing they had to pay Turner for the 2001: A Space Odyssey intellectual property. Even if they’re not the strongest vehicle ads we’ve ever seen, they clearly are showing some real commitment to get them sold.
It’s also clear that the company wants to avoid the perception issues that came with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (Chrysler is owned by the same parent company, Stellantis). Because they didn’t push the Pacifica as a plugin hybrid or EV, many people just think it’s a hybrid. I once even encountered a salesman who didn’t know it had a plug, and upon seeing it, told me “You don’t have to ever use that. It’s just there if you’re into the green thing.”
This time, they’re putting a PHEV in ads with it plugged in shows that the thing it’s, well, a plug-in. They’re not marketing it as a hybrid, and they’re probably not going to have salesmen pretending that it’s not or acting like it’s a bad thing (but, keep in mind, even Stellantis can’t control what dealers will do).
It’s refreshing to see Jeep taking it like a serious vehicle it actually wants to sell, and that it’s being very open about it being a plug-in. This definitely signals a change in thinking at the company.
Featured image: Screenshot from Jeep ad.
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