Jeep boss hails SUV benefits amid calls to back smaller cars

Jeep sees no threat to its position as an SUV-only brand, according to the head of the firm’s European operations, despite calls from leading industry figures for a move to smaller vehicles.

Speaking to Autocar at the launch of the new Avenger e-Hybrid, boss of Jeep Europe Eric Laforge said “isolated politics” would not dictate the market. 

“Is it better to have an Avenger e-Hybrid in the centre of Paris or a big E-segment saloon that is still damaging to the planet?” Laforge said. “I think SUVs still have a great future because of customer needs.

“With an SUV, people want to be in a safer vehicle with this driving position. I don’t see why the market should suddenly change even if some isolated politics are saying that this will be strictly banned. 

“Do you think that customers will leave SUVs even if one politician in Paris, for example, says they will be forbidden? They do a referendum and less than 3% of the population comes to vote on it.” 

His comments come shortly after Luca de Meo, CEO of the Renault Group, published his ‘Letter to Europe’, which outlined a plan to evolve the European car industry over the next 10 years.

In the letter, de Meo highlighted the “mass development of small cars” as a key area of focus, taking inspiration from kei cars. 

In addition to talking about SUVs, Laforge highlighted the brand’s shift to electrification. He said Jeep’s model plans were not severely impacted by ever-changing regulations, including the UK government’s decision to delay the ban on new combustion-engined cars from 2030 to 2035.

The brand initially intended to launch the Jeep Avenger with just an electric powertrain in the UK, but changed its decision so it could also offer the Avenger e-Hybrid and a petrol engine with a manual gearbox. 

Laforge said: “It’s a decision that has been taken a long time away, also, because it was necessary to do it in a moment in which we were waiting for the launch of a new wave of new models.” He added that the Avenger e-Hybrid suited the needs of the UK market. 

“If you want to go from each region, you have to have a product that fits the local customer needs. And that’s why we push on electrification because it’s mandatory now. Mandatory in the sense that if you don’t have it, you don’t have any chance to perform.”

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