Freedom. Adventure. Passion. Authenticity. When that salad of words is connected to Jeep, it becomes clear why the brand is still going strong in its 81st year.
Christian Meunier, brand CEO, and Jim Morrison, senior vice president and head of Jeep’s brand in North America, recently sat down with Wards to discuss brand strategy.
“I have a smile every day when I jump into my Wrangler,” says Meunier, referring to the brand’s most iconic model.
Countering media reports that Carlos Tavares, CEO of Jeep parent Stellantis, is negative about full electrification, Meunier contends Tavares “is more bullish on electrification than anyone else on full BEVs. He just thinks that the government should do its share on things like (expanding) infrastructure. The grid isn’t in place yet. How do we make the grid?”
Meunier says Stellantis is spending €35 billion ($37.4 billion) between now and 2025 on electrification across all brands. “I think that’s really bullish. Our target is 100% BEVs in Europe and 50% BEVs in North America in 2030.”
Of the Jeep brand, Morrison (pictured, left) says: “We’re finding from our customers that a switch to ‘4xe’ (plug-in-hybrid) technology is completely natural. Our current customers are our best advocates for the technology. And even the all-electric BEV (due out in 2023) is going to be the next 4x4. 4xe is quickly evolving into the next 4x4 Jeep.”
Jeep introduced the Wrangler 4xe in the European and U.S. markets in 2021 and is “the number one PHEV in North America,” Morrison says. Sales in first-quarter 2022 totaled 8,346 and accounted for 18% of Wrangler sales.
A 4xe Grand Cherokee is coming soon.
Looking at the bigger market picture, Meunier reports North America is Jeep’s largest volume market, accounting for 60%-65% of global sales. In 2021, a down year mostly because of the chip shortage, it sold 778,771 units in the U.S. and 59,979 in Canada.
“Jeep represents roughly 10% of the SUV market here,” he says. “In Latin America we’re at 15%.”
Meunier sees Europe as a potential growth market. “Italy is currently our number one market. We’ve 10% of the market there,” he says. “But elsewhere in Europe, for lack of vision and focus, our share is still small. In France, for instance – only 1%.
“So, the ratio progress is from 1% to 10%,” he says. “We see a big potential. And we’re going to be 100% BEV in the market.”
Jeep’s goal, which it hopes to achieve between 2025 and 2030, is to increase the non-North America share of its business to 50%, up from 35%-40%. It plans to do that while continuing to grow its North American business.
In Japan, Jeep has been the No.1 American brand since 2012. In both Japan and South Korea (where it is not the top American brand), Meunier expects to see opportunities with its 4xe technology.
The executive details Stellantis’s EV platform strategy and how it relates to Jeep.
“We’ve got four platforms,” he says, “not five, six or eight but four. These platforms” – all going by the name STLA, short for Stellantis – “will be common to all of the brands within the group.”
Including, in addition to Jeep: Dodge, Chrysler, Ram, Citroen, Peugeot and Fiat.
Meunier further notes electrification and the associated modules will be common to all brands, “giving us a pool of technology to create synergies on cost.” For instance, the automaker will develop scalable inverters and eco-drive mode components.
The platforms include STLA Small, focusing on city cars (B and C segments), STLA Medium for premium cars (C/D segment), STLA Large, which will incorporate all-wheel-drive (D and E segments), and STLA Frame for large SUVs and trucks.
“STLA Small is Renegade size,” said Meunier. “STLA Medium includes the Compass, STLA Large the Grand Cherokee, and STLA Frame the Wagoneer and Ram 1500.”
In the BEV segment, STLA Small will target a 300-mile (483-km) range, STLA Medium 440 miles (708 km) and STLA Large and STLA Frame 500 miles (805 km).
Morrison, who previously headed the Ram brand, says the “common thread across all Jeep segments is mindset. People are drawn to Jeep for its freedom and adventure. And now with 4xe, we will add power (up to 330 kW for STLA Large) and complete silence.”
Among current Jeep models, Meunier, the former chairman of Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand, notes the Wrangler, which originated the brand, offers the widest spectrum of customer coverage “from women who think it’s cute to the hardcore off-roader.”