Elec­tric fu­ture

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Motoring -

Jeep Aus­tralia will wait for mar­ket readi­ness be­fore in­tro­duc­ing its plug-in hy­brid and full elec­tric ve­hi­cles de­spite a ramp up in its global port­fo­lio that will see al­ter­na­tive pow­er­trains pro­lif­er­ate across its model range over the next five years.

An­nounced in early June at an in­vestor meet­ing, then Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles chief oper­at­ing of­fi­cer Ser­gio Mar­chionne re­vealed Jeep’s am­bi­tions to of­fer at least one elec­tri­fied vari­ant of each of his mod­els by 2021, while 10 plug-in hy­brid elec­tric ve­hi­cles and four emis­sions-free SUVS would be made avail­able the fol­low­ing year.

How­ever, Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles Aus­tralia pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive, as well as head of the Jeep brand for the Asia-pa­cific re­gion, Steve Zan­lunghi ex­clu­sively told Goauto that elec­tri­fied Jeeps would only be made avail­able lo­cally once the al­ter­na­tive pow­er­trains reached crit­i­cal mass.

“I think if the mar­ket dic­tated it, then yeah, we can bring in elec­tri­fied Jeeps,” he said.

“The elec­tric pow­er­train ap­pli­ca­tions ex­ist in our port­fo­lio. But right now, there is no de­mand in this mar­ket­place.

“If you look at the fig­ures, there was some­thing like 760 elec­tric ve­hi­cles, pure elec­tric, reg­is­tered so far this year, ver­sus an in­dus­try of 680,000. So I don’t see it.”

Year to date, EVS have only made up 0.1 per­cent of all new-car sales, al­though hy­brid adop­tion has reached 7610 units this year for a 1.1 per­cent cut through.

Mr Zan­lunghi re­vealed mul­ti­ple rea­sons why elec­tri­fied pow­er­trains had not caught on, such as a lack of pub­lic charg­ing sta­tions and the com­par­a­tively high point of en­try, but stopped short of call­ing for fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives from the gov­ern­ment.

“Those pow­er­train ap­pli­ca­tions are very expensive, and then you have the in­fra­struc­ture as well,” he said.

“I guess my point is, if there was a de­mand for it, or if there was gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion that said you are taxed if you don’t have it, then we can eas­ily plug it in, be­cause it’s part of the strat­egy.

“It is not cheap and cus­tomers do not want to pay it right now.”

Jeep has al­ready be­gun gear­ing up for elec­tric pow­er­train pro­duc­tion, last month re­tool­ing its Toledo, Ohio ma­chin­ing plant to man­u­fac­ture the vi­tal Power Elec­tron­ics Mo­d­ule for the new-gen­er­a­tion Wran­gler – likely to be the brand’s first elec­tri­fied model.

When ques­tioned if elec­tri­fi­ca­tion would take away from Jeep’s goany­where, rugged brand im­age, Mr Zan­lunghi said ‘ab­so­lutely not,’ adding the low-end torque would help its off-road­ers.

As for the lead­er­ship change at Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles that saw Mike Man­ley tak­ing the reins from Mr Mar­chionne, who passed away in July, Mr Zan­lunghi said it would be busi­ness as usual.

“Mike has said on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and in­ter­views that he val­ues the Aus­tralian mar­ket and the po­ten­tial specif­i­cally for the Jeep brand here be­cause DNAS for our brand match up with the Aus­tralian cul­ture and life­style,” he said.

“I think it’s up to my­self as the head of the mar­ket and also the head of the re­gion, to make pro­pos­als and busi­ness cases for the mar­ket here, and I think he would con­tinue to make the de­ci­sions.”

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