Jeep Wrangler Plug-in Hybrid On Track for 2020

By · August 22, 2018

Fiat Chrysler announced last week that a key component of its upcoming Jeep Wrangler Plug-in Hybrid will be produced at the company’s Ohio-based Toledo Assembly Complex. It’s a reassuring sign that even a company that’s been reluctant about EVs is moving on pace to produce additional plug-in vehicles. The plug-in Jeep Wrangler, the brand’s first battery-powered vehicle, is expected to go on sale in 2020.

The Jeep Wrangler’s key component mentioned in the announcement is its Power Electronics Module, which includes a power module and dual-charger. Brian Harlow, Head of Manufacturing, FCA North America, in a press release last week, said, "As the most iconic of the Jeep nameplates, it is critical that we flawlessly execute the launch of the Wrangler PHEV. The Toledo Machining employees have made a strong business case as to why we should put our faith in them to deliver a great product.”

Sergio Marchionne, the late chief executive of Fiat Chrysler, was not sanguine about electric cars. Speaking at a Brooking Institutions conference in May 2014, Marchionne said, “I hope you don't buy the Fiat 500e because every time I sell one, it costs me $14,000.” Despite its charms, the Fiat 500e has always been a vehicle produced to primarily comply with government mandates.

Sam Abuelsamid, senior research analyst for Navigant Research's Transportation Efficiencies program, told Forbes that Fiat Chrysler kept developing electrification technology over the years, even as it was pragmatic about actual production. The 500e is sold only in California and Oregon, but the company’s Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid is a nationwide vehicle.

Jeep confirmed plans to produce a Wrangler plug-in hybrid last year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Motor Trend speculated that the Wrangler Plug-in Hybrid could use the same 3.6-liter V-6 used in the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. The Pacifica can travel 33 miles purely on electricity before reverting to use of the gas-powered engine.

The Wrangler Plug-in Hybrid is part of FCA's commitment to have 30 models with electrified powertrains by 2022. According to Rebecca Lindland, KBB executive analyst, the company will continue on that path—despite looming questions about whether the Trump Administration will strip California’s ability to mandate zero-emissions vehicles. Like all auto companies, Fiat Chrysler needs to think globally—keeping stringent emissions laws in Europe and China in mind.

Abuelsamid believes that Mike Manley—the successor to Marchione—will keep the company’s existing EV plans in place. “I frankly don't expect much if any change from the plan,” said Abuelsamid. “Lots of emphasis on batteries in Maserati as well as Jeeps in China and elsewhere. Lots of mild hybrid and plug-in hybrids in between. If anything I could see perhaps another battery-electric vehicle added in North America depending on how the demand looks.”

So expect the plug-in Jeep Wrangler to arrive on time in 2020—and more plug-in cars from Fiat Chrysler in the years that follow.

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