Jeep Easing Electrification Into Japanese Market, World to Follow
One of the main reasons Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is partnering with PSA Group is to help soften the financial blows of battery development, we literally just talked about it. But the French automaker has its own reasons for wanting to get into bed with the FCA, namely its rather diverse list of subsidiaries — with Jeep occupying spot número uno.
Despite being offensively American to some, Jeep is the sixth most-popular nameplate in the United States. It also happens to be world-renowned as an off-road brand and had made strong inroads in places you’d never expect. This has forced the brand to rethink its global appeal, requiring Fiat Chrysler to issue some market-specific models like China’s Jeep Commander PHEV and the Renegade 4xe — the latter of which is already sold in Europe and slated to launch this November in Japan. But these models are only the tip of the iceberg as FCA intends on meeting ever-tightening emissions regulations in major markets that aren’t the United States.
While positively dwarfed by the sales enjoyed by practically every Japanese brand selling domestically, Jeep still saw 13,360 deliveries in the Land of the Rising Sun in 2019 — placing it right between Volvo and Peugeot. With help from the Renegade 4xe, Fiat Chrysler thinks it can improve those numbers for 2021. According to Automotive News, the automaker expects to sell roughly 4,000 Renegades in Japan next year to that end. Around 10 and 20 percent of those are presumed to be of the hybrid persuasion.
That overall volume may not sound overwhelming compared with North American Jeep sales, but the hybrid Jeep’s arrival taps into growing Japanese interest in both the brand and electrified vehicles in general, especially hybrids.
“We understand we need to be present with electrified vehicles,” FCA Japan CEO Pontus Häggström said. “Japanese consumers are keen on technology. This is the latest technology the group has.”
Jeep intends on electrifying every single model in its lineup by 2022, specifically so it can continue doing business around the globe. Barring some regulatory changes in the United States, plenty probably won’t be targeting North American customers. But they’ll be handy in other markets where the average engine size is much lower. Jeep’s even going to hybridize the Wrangler (which will be sold in the U.S.) and promised it wouldn’t lose a single shed of its off-road prowess.
In the case of the Renegade 4xe, Fiat Chrysler ditched the standard powerplant for a 1.3-liter gas burner (front axle) and a 60-horsepower electric motor (rear axle) mated to an 11.4 kWh battery. Jeep even has a Trailhawk version of the hybrid that positively trumps the old 2.4-liter Tigershark’s maximum output with combined (electric/ICE) 238 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque.
That’s not too shabby and will undoubtedly make it an appetizing alternative to something like the Suzuki Jimny, which may soon have the non-electric, mini-SUV off-roading world all to itself. Though it was recently removed from the European market after its positively tiny motor failed to meet emission regulations for 2021. Suzuki has gotten around this by selling the tiny 4×4 as a “light commercial vehicle” while it attempts to figure out a more permanent solution. But if that doesn’t illustrate exactly why Jeep is so sprung on hybridization, nothing does.
A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.
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