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Is Jeep’s Christian Meunier gung-ho for EVs, or a serial greenwasher?

Christian Meunier, Jeep’s global president, was in New Zealand this week making big EV promises. He told Australia’s WhichCar that Jeep will be “the greenest SUV brand in the world.” If his name sounds familiar, Meunier was at the helm of Infiniti this year from January to May 2019. In that role, he said the next wave of Infiniti vehicles would be either plug-in hybrid or pure EV.

In a case of déjà vu all over again, Meunier this week said all Jeep models will have plug-in hybrid or battery-electric options in the next two years. He was speaking in New Zealand during a media event for the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, a new internal combustion Wrangler-based pickup rated at 19 miles per gallon.

Carsguide, an Australian website, reported Meunier’s comments from New Zealand:

We’re going to really accelerate the electrification of Jeep. We’re going to do that very, very quickly.

The mission is [to become the] greenest SUV brand in the world. That’s our mission, but also the most capable and the most fun to drive off-road and on-road.

We will expand the capability off-road into more of on-road capability, all-weather capability, and [be] fully sustainable. When I said we want to become the greenest SUV brand in the world, we mean it, and that is what the company is going to deliver.

No details were available about which electric Jeeps will roll out or when. Jeep previously showed plug-in versions of its Wrangler, Renegade crossover, and Compass SUV.

Previous statements from Jeep-parent FCA indicated that a plug-in hybrid variant of the Wrangler would launch in 2020. In total, the company’s five-year roadmap includes four pure electric vehicles and 10 plug-in hybrids, all by 2022. That’s coming soon.

Jeep also said it would gradually drop all diesel engines from its lineup.

Rewind the tape

There’s no reason not to believe Meunier. However, his words sound oddly familiar from when he briefly served as global president for Infiniti (after a dozen years in leadership roles at Nissan).

In January, after becoming chief at Infiniti, he said the purpose of the luxury brand for the next two years is “to get ready for electrification.” He noted that Infiniti by 2025 would only sell plug-in hybrids or EVs, with the first batch rolling off production lines by 2021.

Under his leadership, Meunier said that Infiniti would appeal to millennials by introducing EVs.

They want experience, and they want technology. They want to feel different. They want a product that makes them better as a person. Infiniti has a big role to play there.

Early last month, Infiniti repeated its 2025 electrification goals. But this time, the company said some of these models would use a “gas-generated EV system.” In that system, known as e-POWER at Nissan, a gasoline engine generates electrical power stored in a battery. It doesn’t plug in.

Eric Rigaux, Infiniti’s global head of product strategy and planning, apologized about the driving range of EVs:

Some [customers] are going to be so happy to know the thrill of an electric vehicle, the silence, the instant response, but without worrying about driving range or charging time. And this is the solution we’re going to bring.

Electrek’s Take

We realize that EVs are now in vogue. And we appreciate that executives, especially from smaller brands, like to say the right things.

Of course, Meunier is no longer at Infiniti, and he was only there a short time. So he can’t be blamed for Nissan’s luxury brand backtracking on EV goals.

But hopefully, he’ll stick around longer at Jeep, so he can deliver on the promise to make Jeep a “green brand,” complete with multiple battery-electric vehicles.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.