Vehicles | January 7, 2021 2:13 pm

Jeep Unveils First Three-Row SUV Since 2010, With More on the Way

The Grand Cherokee L shows Jeep’s commitment to the status quo, not the future

2021 jeep grand cherokee L
Meet the new 2021 Grand Cherokee L, Jeep's first three-row SUV since 2010.
Jeep/FCA

Earlier today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk passed Jeff Bezos to become the wealthiest person in the world, which can be attributed to the rise in the stock price of his electric vehicle company. While this may seem almost unbelievable to some (Tesla is a relatively minor player in the auto industry in terms of production while Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the world), it comes down to the potential that investors see in Musk’s carmaker. In short, they see Tesla — and its electric vehicle, battery and autonomous driving tech — as the future.

I bring this up because it’s a stark contrast to Jeep, which has just unveiled the new 2021 Grand Cherokee L, a monumental release for the brand as it’s their first three-row SUV since cutting the Commander after the 2010 model year. It’s also a sign of things to come, as the previously announced revival of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will also likely feature hulking three-row options, and top out at over $100,000.

In other words, Jeep is making a massive bet not on the future, but the status quo.

You see, while electric vehicles are almost certainly the future of personal transportation — with California and Massachusetts already setting end dates for gas car sales — road-hogging, gas-guzzling SUVs (vehicles that have unequivocally exacerbated climate change) are still favored by American drivers. As Car and Driver notes, more than half of the 25 best-selling vehicles in the U.S. in 2020 were SUVs, with the Jeep Grand Cherokee coming in at number 15 overall and number one for the brand. No electric vehicles even made it on the list, not even the Tesla Model 3.

It’s a conundrum for Jeep, to be sure. As legacy automakers are intent on climbing out of the hole the pandemic put them in, Jeep’s bet on high-priced versions of popular models seems like a great way to rake in cash in the short term (pricing for the Grand Cherokee L hasn’t been announced, but CNBC writes that “it will likely be above the current Grand Cherokee at $34,000 and below the upcoming Wagoneer … that’s expected to go on sale this year starting at about $60,000”). But in 14 years when gas car bans take effect, will Jeep be left behind by Tesla, Ford, Volkswagen and other companies who are already prioritizing fully electric SUVs? 

All signs point to yes. Despite Jeep’s big EV posturing, the only mention of electrification in Jeep’s announcement today was an upcoming 4xe version of the Grand Cherokee, which is just a plug-in hybrid. 

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