Will Jeep fans embrace the rumored plug-in hybrid Wrangler?
The clamors of Jeep enthusiasts for a torquey, diesel-powered Wrangler will be answered when the EcoDiesel four-by-four arrives next year. A less-clamored-for variant will likely accompany the diesel offering: a plug-in hybrid version. This will be the first time the utility vehicle brand will take electrification off-road; it’ll be interesting to see whether the technology will make inroads with Jeep enthusiasts, who are known to be a traditional group.
To project possible responses to an electric Jeep, Automotive News asked a number of industry analysts to comment on the upcoming hybrid Wrangler.
Jeremy Acevedo, a senior manager for insight at Edmunds, believes that an electrified Jeep could help the general automotive market embrace electric power.
“I think it takes something like a Wrangler to take down some of these boundaries. In that way, you can be doing a huge service to the industry overall,” Acevedo said. “If the Wrangler, arguably the most iconic SUV on the road, can pull off a plug-in hybrid, I think that it does give credibility to this technology having some merit beyond efficiency if it is truly a great off-roader [and] if it does carry that torch well.”
Unlike a PHEV Wrangler, a diesel version already has a ready market according to Sam Fiorani of AutoForecast Solutions. “The diesels for Jeep have been very niche, very specific to the real Jeep buyers, I call them,” Fiorani said. “Not the people who commute back and forth and take the kids to school. People who actually like to get the grunt of a diesel. I don’t think it’s a fuel economy thing as much as the torque.”
Torque could be a big selling point with an electrified Wrangler, however. Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book, told Automotive News that a hybrid Jeep could have advantages off-road. “Hybrid technology invariably adds weight and complexity, but it also widens a vehicle’s performance and fuel- efficiency spectrum,” said Brauer. “A hybrid-powered Jeep Wrangler will have more low-speed torque to assist with off-road excursions.”