Don’t look now. But Mazda, Jeep, and Subaru have EVs in the works.
We know which companies are leading the electric car revolution. Yadda, yadda. But if you want to know when the EV tipping point is approaching, keep your eyes on the EV laggards. It’ll indeed be a new day for vehicle emissions when every single dealership showroom in America has a pure EV model for sale.
News from EV Laggards
With that in mind, ponder a future in which even Mazda, Jeep, and Subaru offer electric vehicles. These lively automotive brands are mostly quiet these days about EVs. But based on recent evidence, that’s changing slowly but surely.
An All-Electric Mazda
Mazda’s European chief Jeff Guyton told Automotive News in December that “a battery-electric vehicle will come in 2020 and a plug-in hybrid will arrive in 2021.”
He explained that the EV launching in 2020 would use Mazda’s own technology. Mazda also has a partnership with Toyota to develop electric platforms. That tie-up will result in additional Mazda EVs “a couple of years later,” according to Guyton.
At the recent 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, Ikuo Maeda, Mazda’s design chief, said that the upcoming all-electric model would have a unique aesthetic. In other words, it won’t be based on an existing model.
Thankfully, Maeda said it would not be geeky or weird. “I hate that direction, and I won’t aim for that.” Other reports suggest the model would be a crossover and not a sports car. (Sorry, no electric Miata derivative.) Regardless, there’s something in the works at Mazda, despite disparaging remarks from Mazda president Akira Marumoto. At the LA show, he said, “I prefer the smell of gasoline.”
Four Electric Jeeps on the Way
But Mike Manley, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler, let this line slip at the 2018 LA Auto Show: “In addition to the all-new mild hybrid Wrangler, a full plug-in electric Jeep Wrangler will be available in 2020.”
Manley’s statement left if vague if the Wrangler would be a pure EV or the previously announced plug-in hybrid. But it’s clear that Manley, who replaced the late Sergio Marchionne as CEO last July, is more open to EVs than his predecessor.
Manley’s veiled EV announcement is backed by Jeep’s five-year electrification plan, which was unveiled in June 2018. The planned roadmap includes 10 plug-in hybrids and four battery-electric cars. Maserati, another Fiat Chrysler brand, similarly said it plans to make four pure EVs by about 2022. And the 2020 all-electric Fiat 500e is due for a redesign and a much bigger battery.
Mr. Manley, how about a fun and funky off-road EV?
A Crunchy Subaru EV, Eventually
2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
Subaru unveiled the 2019 Crosstrek SUV plug-in hybrid in Los Angeles. It will offer a modest 17 miles of all-electric range.
Okay, so the outdoorsy auto brand is only dipping its toes in the water. But that doesn’t mean it’s not working on pure EVs. Last year, Colin Christie, Subaru Australia’s managing director explained, “We’re not talking 10 years, and we’re not talking two years. But in somewhere around five years we’ll potentially have fully-electric vehicles.” He suggested that the first EV would use an existing SUV platform.
That statement from down under is timid, but sources in Japan have been reporting since 2016 that a Subaru all-wheel-drive electric crossover is due in the US by 2021. Moreover, those same reports indicate that Subaru’s new global platform will accommodate gasoline, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric drivetrains.