The boss of Jeep thinks its future 4x4s shouldn't be expensive
Jeep doesn't see any disadvantages in going electric, and that the brand "shouldn't be premium"
Jeep is the world's original 4x4 and America's clear leader. Global sales are four times what they were as recently as 2010. Yet in Britain its sales have flopped. TopGear.com has been speaking to the bosses about how how they intend to use dramatic new electric vehicles and new positioning to get back its mojo.
A clear-eyed analysis of what wrong is part of setting the new course. Global Jeep boss Christian Meunier is disarmingly frank. "The image is irrelevant. It hasn't evolved. It's about big engines, and the Willys." Heritage might be a good thing, but not when it means people have you down as a gas-guzzling antique.
"The Renegade did well to start with but it had thirsty powertrains and that killed the car. The Compass too launched with high CO2." Now both those two come with PHEV options.
Sure enough the plug-in versions represent about three-quarters of Renegade and Compass sales here, partly because they're good for BIK tax. And partly because their electric rear axle gives them four-wheel-drive, a Jeep speciality at a time when nearly all crossovers are FWD-only.
Next up, in the US in 2024 and here in ’25, are the Recon and Wagoneer S. Both are fully-electric, on the brand-new Stellantis EV platform.
The Recon has much of the look of a Ford Bronco about it, despite the battery-only power. It's meant to be fun, and to be a serious off-roader.
The Wagoneer S is a luxury crossover, but still pretty capable in the rough. It's about the size of a BMW iX3. Fast, too: they're talking about 0-62 in sub-4.0 seconds thanks to 600-odd horsepower from twin motors, and 400 miles of range.
Can Jeeps be uniquely Jeep if they share platforms with Peugeots, Alfas, DSs and Dodges? Meunier says yes. Using the same battery packs, electronics, safety systems and so on, he claims, means Jeep can afford to do the bodies and suspensions that give Jeep character.
And Jeep isn't exactly a brand that depends on loud exhausts or manual transmissions or ultra-light weight. "For Jeep electric has no disadvantages. It's a huge opportunity." Electric drive improves off-road ability, with better traction control and torque. "I want an electric Jeep that can drive underwater. It's possible as it wouldn't need air for the engine."
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In Italy the little Avenger, electric-only here, can be had with a petrol engine. Why not here? After all, with the related Vauxhall Mokka, three-quarters of sales here have an engine. Sounds like Jeep is cutting itself off from all those non-electric buyers. But Jeep's head of the European region, Eric Laforge, says that because Jeep is doing so badly, it can reposition itself like this without sacrificing many sales overall. Three-quarters of almost nothing is almost nothing.
It's not just the thirst issue that harmed Jeep's image. There has been a disconnect between what it thinks it is and what the rest of us think it is. Former Jeep bosses thought it was a premium brand, so they were over-priced.
Meunier says the big America-only Grand Wagoneer is a Range Rover rival, and the Wagoneer S will be expensive because it's electric. But, says Meunier: "The rest are accessible. Jeep shouldn't be premium. We're confident but we're never arrogant." The Grand Cherokee has loads of equipment and is hugely capable, but it's not a Mercedes M-Class rival.
In America, Jeep is 10 per cent of SUV sales, In Britain it's now a measly 0.3 percent. That's despite the fact it undercuts Britain's own Land Rover. His plan is that the Avenger – winner of Car of the Year, and Top Gear's Electric Car of the Year – will boost sales and awareness of the rest of the range.
He says the dealers haven't been specialist enough. In recent days there were showrooms with Fiats, Alfas, Abarths and the odd Jeep; the sales people didn't know what to do with them. With fewer dealers selling more cars, he says they can attract sales people who really understand and love what a Jeep is and what it can do.