Jeep plans to be a leader in electric vehicle in Australia despite believing the country isn’t ready for widespread EV uptake, according the brand’s global boss.
Speaking to select Australian media via video call, Jeep global president Christian Meunier confirmed Australia would get a plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee 4xe this year or next, but there would be no diesel offered.
“Jeep is going 100 per cent, full speed on electrification, including in Australia,” he said.
“You’ll have some pretty exciting product coming your way. And we’re not going to be followers in that field — we’re going to be leaders.”
The announcement echo’s Meunier’s claim when he first stepped into the role in 2019 that he wanted Jeep to be the greenest SUV brand in the world.
He said there was no issue in shifting away from traditional power sources and maintaining the ruggedness associated with the brand.
The Wrangler 4xe (pronounced four-by-ee) plug-in — which Meunier said wouldn’t come to Australia in the short term, but he “was working on it” — offers 280kW and 637Nm, plus an electric driving range of 40km.
“With electrification on a product like Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, we’re able to deliver more capability off-road, more fun to drive, strong towing capacity, strong torque and eco friendly technology,” he said.
“The 4xe in terms of capabilities, torque and everything is as competent as a V8. And obviously fuel economy, there’s no comparison.
“Towing is core to Jeep, so we won’t compromise on it. We’ve tested Wrangler and Grand Cherkoee 4xe and towing is just as good as with an ICE.
“So we think that’s the perfect world for Jeep.”
Meunier also said electrification didn’t mean the end of traditionally V8-powered performance monsters with SRT and Trackhawk badges, claiming such specialty products were part of Jeep’s DNA.
“We will continue to do it,” he said.
“Are we going to continue to do it exactly the same way? Maybe, maybe not. But there are a lot of different options we have on the exotic side of the brand.
“Is it Trackhawk, is it SRT, is it something else? I don’t know yet…. well, I do know, but I can’t say anything.”
However, Meunier did concede the dwindling number of diesel options in the brand’s line-up — including the current petrol-only Cherokee, Wrangler and Gladiator ranges — has negatively impacted sales, but said it was the right move in the long run.
“I’m not saying we couldn’t have sold a few more units with diesel,” he said.
“Obviously we still have diesel powertrains, diesel is still there, particularly in Europe, in America in certain conditions and also in Australia.
“But on the Grand Cherokee the decision was made to go petrol and electrification, because that’s where the future is going.
“Diesel engines are becoming more challenging because of emissions.
“I think electrification will really help us bring something new to the customer. It’s going to be a way for Jeep to differentiate and show we’re really advanced with technology.”
Of course, many brands already have PHEVs in Australian showrooms and the technology remains a niche offering and a low seller.
However Meunier says applying the technology to models renowned for toughness could help it break new ground locally.
“I think if you bring an iconic product like Wrangler or Grand Cherokee, you have the opportunity to do things others can’t do,” he said.
“It’s not only about compliance and fuel economy; it’s about fun, it’s about torque, it’s about differentiation.
“People want to be different and I think Jeep can deliver something really unique.
I think if you bring your product which doesn’t offer enough beyond fuel economy, you have no potential success today in Australia — but we can offer something really special.”
Meunier is less than convinced about Australia’s preparedness for fully-electric models, particularly those which would be taken to remote areas.
He said the Australian Government needed to come to the party in regards to infrastructure and other supportive legislation before EVs can truly take off.
“The governments are essential for the technologies to accelerate and become more mainstream — we can see that in Europe and markets like California, New York and China,” he said.
“I think Australia today is definitely not ready for BEV because of the lack of infrastructure and there’s no point in trying to push something without the support of the government.”
But Meunier was optimistic about the technology breaking through in Australia and didn’t rule out introducing a fully electric vehicle in spite of the challenges here.
“In Australia, it is going to happen: the people like nature, are eco-friendly and also pretty attached to their wallet,” he said.
“I think it’s challenging to bring BEV to Ausatralia — that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t bring a BEV, but it would be more challenging.
“If the government just starts stimulating it a little bit, it will follow.
“I think all the developed countries are heading towards electrification, by 2025 I think a significant amount of the sales in Australia will be electrified.
“I have zero doubt.”