Jeep 4xe puts the brand on more shopping lists

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The 4xe family of plug-in hybrid Jeeps dropped the SUV brand into the world of electrification for the first time.

This has created some interesting shopping behavior around the 4xe version of the Wrangler, a nameplate not known for being eco-friendly. The hybrid powertrain added a layer to the versatile utility vehicle, with its promise of quiet rides and 21 miles of electric range.

Edmunds cross-shopping data gives a peek into how the electrified Wrangler has broadened its reach and taken on some unlikely competitors.

The Wrangler 4xe is being researched alongside gasoline vehicles such as the Ford Bronco as well as battery-electric options.

It’s no surprise that the Bronco is high on the list of competitors for the conventional Wrangler and the Wrangler 4xe. It was the most cross-shopped non-Jeep model and No. 2 overall for both versions in May on Edmunds.

But the Wrangler 4xe also is finding itself in competition with vehicles from Toyota, Tesla and Volkswagen that aren’t typical Jeep rivals.

The Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid crossover that can get up to 42 miles on EV battery power alone, ranked second on the Wrangler 4xe’s cross-shopping slate in March. The RAV4 plug-in was third in April and fifth in May, making it the first electrified option outside Jeep that shoppers looked for on Edmunds each month after visiting the Wrangler 4xe page.

Many Edmunds shoppers who looked at the Wrangler 4xe also checked out the Tesla Model 3, Volkswagen ID4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E — none of which cater to the type of customer who typically buys a Wrangler.

“I genuinely did not expect to suddenly see those other pure EVs show up,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights for Edmunds.

“You are going to get new buyers, you’re going to get new blood into the system; you’re not just taking from the same old people, same old segments,” Drury said. “So that offering has really diversified their customer base, and that’s fantastic. Because, again, you’re not going to repeat customers, you’re going for expansion.”

Kelley Blue Book’s website tracked some Wrangler 4xe shoppers also looking into plug-in hybrid versions of the Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe.

Meanwhile, the only electrified model that shoppers exploring the standard Wrangler later browsed was its own 4xe variant.

Jim Morrison, Jeep’s North America chief, said a “large majority” of Wrangler 4xe buyers considered other electrified options. He wasn’t surprised to see shoppers also checking out the Model 3 and Mustang Mach-E.

“It’s good and consistent with what we’re seeing as well,” Morrison told Automotive News. “It’s great for Jeep to bring that customer into the showroom and, more importantly, to welcome them to the family.”

Randy Dye, who owns Daytona Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Daytona Beach, Fla., said his dealership has taken in two Model 3s as trade-ins for the Wrangler 4xe.

Moving into electrification, Dye said, has altered the “typical definition” of what a Jeep is for some consumers.

“It’s one of those things that we’ve seen both people who are very conscious, [and] they like the whole concept of electric vehicles,” Dye said. “And we’ve also seen some curiosity. Some people are just plain curious and are willing to try and see how it fits their lifestyle.”

Steve Wolf, dealer principal at Helfman Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram-Fiat in Houston, believes the 4xe model is helping Jeep retain customers who wanted to try greener options. A longtime customer told Wolf he was going to switch to another brand because he was ready for an electrified vehicle, but when Wolf informed him that Jeep now offered the Wrangler 4xe, the customer bought that instead.

“Maybe it’s because I’m an old guy now, but I was kind of skeptical” of the Wrangler 4xe at first, Wolf said, “but everyone I sold them to loves them.”