Was the Jeep Wrangler 4xe 2021’s 3rd Highest-Selling EV in the US?

Only available in the US beginning in Q2 of 2021, the hot-selling Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) was apparently the top-selling PHEV in the US last year.

I say apparently as a PR person with Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep, stated the following to me in a January 18 email:

I can tell you that it is true, we were the best selling plug-in hybrid SUV last year in the US.  Sorry, however, we do not break out those sales numbers; that is the same as when we communicated with one another, over 2nd-quarter sales last year (the vehicles’ 1st quarter of sales).

— Rick Deneau, Stellantis

So we don’t know the actual sales figure for the Wrangler 4xe, but if Stellantis’ claim is correct, then it had 2021 sales of somewhere around 28,000. I’m estimating 28,000 as an executive with a leading auto analyst firm confirmed to me privately that their registration estimates for 2021 put the RAV4 Prime and Wrangler 4xe as a toss up.

I can’t tell you our exact number but if they beat RAV it was very narrow. Flip a coin.

— Auto Industry Analyst

On top of the lack of transparency around 2021 sales for the Wrangler 4xe, we don’t actually know exactly when the PHEV model was available for sales in the US. The Stellantis Q2 2021 sales press release provides zero clarity: “Since the full launch of the Wrangler 4xe earlier this year, it quickly became the No. 1 best-selling plug-in hybrid in the marketplace.”

But the Q1 (April 1, 2021) press release mentions it as: “…and the all-new 2021 Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid arriving in dealerships soon.” So my guess is that perhaps a few hundred arrived at dealerships in April, but that thousands of units began arriving at dealerships in May.

Toyota, which does publish sales of its PHEV models, reported that the RAV4 Prime — which is the PHEV version of the number 4-selling vehicle in the US since since 2017 — had 2021 sales of 27,707 units. And while Tesla does not report its US vehicle sales (which it calls “deliveries”), we have high confidence that the Model Y and Model 3 had 2021 sales in the 160,000 to 190,000 and 120,000 to 150,000 range respectively.

When I shared the RAV4 Prime sales number of 27,707 with Stellantis I could not pry out a number for the 4xe, so we are left to either accept or reject the claim. As someone who started my career in PR and spent more than 30 years in marketing and marketing communications — I’m simply adamant that any public claim of “top selling,” “the largest,” the best,” and similar declarations must be backed by proof. Especially in this day and age of consumer mistrust of corporations, transparency is of utmost importance.

While it is common for OEMs to NOT report sales of its models by powertrain — including PHEVs and in some cases BEVs like the Kia Niro and Hyundai Kona — both Toyota (RAV4 Prime and Prius Prime) and Mitsubishi (Outlander PHEV) do publish sales of their PHEVs.

So, we do know the sales numbers for most of the top-selling EVs and a strong sense of the two top-selling Tesla models. But, while Stellantis has repeatedly claimed the Wrangler 4xe is the “best selling plug-in hybrid SUV,” the company refuses to actually report the sales figures for the 4xe that would provide proof of its claim.

There are no legal or financial reporting requirements that would compel Stellantis to publish the specific sales numbers for the Wrangler 4xe, however, doing so would actually provide credibility and proof of its “best selling” claim. In fact, if the Wrangler 4xe actually did outsell the RAV4 Prime in only 9+ months on the market in 2021, it is a pretty significant accomplishment and EV news story.

Instead, the news and claim has been relegated to Stellantis executive quotes in trade articles and is generally flying below the radar of many in the auto industry — and perhaps more importantly the larger potential PHEV-buying consumer market. From where I sit, a new PHEV from Jeep outselling the Toyota RAV4 Prime is actually pretty impressive. And assuming it is true, Stellantis should share the sales numbers, and shout from the mountain tops and market that the Wrangler 4xe is the “number 1-selling PHEV” in the US.

Stellantis, however, seems to disagree and is just going to stick by its policy of not publishing sales by powertrain. And if that’s the choice and decision — that’s fine. Just don’t make a public claim without providing proof to back it up.

What do you think? Am I being too hard on Stellantis or do you agree that a claim such as “best selling” requires some sort of proof for it to have any credibility?

Why Is the Wrangler 4xe Selling So Well?

Putting my frustration with a lack of transparency from Stellantis aide, the Wrangler 4xe’s strong sales also portends well for near-term sales of other PHEVs in the US including the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe which is expected to arrive at US dealers in early 2022.

If we pro-rate the 28,000 unit estimated 2021 Wrangler 4xe sales (using the 8-month period of May- December) out over 12 months, Jeep’s popular Wrangler PHEV could and should reach sales in 2022 of around 42,000 or more. And depending on the volume of RAV4 Primes that Toyota imports to US dealers from Japan, we could see a battle brewing for PHEV supremacy between Jeep and Toyota.

According to an industry source the Wrangler traditionally has a fairly low percentage of its customers choosing to lease over buying. But my theory — which I can’t prove — is that the very competitive monthly starting lease rate combined with the 21 miles of electric range are contributing significantly to the success of the 4xe. When you compare the $52,530 MSRP of the base 4xe to the $29,725 of the base Unlimited Sport, the $15 per month higher lease payment seems like a huge bargain.

A more direct comparison between a base Unlimited Sport and Unlimited Sport 4xe finds an identical monthly lease rate of $292 yet an MSRP difference of more than $7,000 ($36,820 versus $29,725). And for those that prefer to purchase rather than lease, the $7,500 federal EV tax credit, plus state and utility rebates available in many states effectively puts the 4xe cost below that of comparable Wrangler trims.

Curious about the lease versus buy decision, I perused the Jeep Wrangler 4xeForum and found a mix of views, but several people saying they chose, or are planning, to lease the 4xe because of the lower cost.

Leased mine. Found out about the deal on the Leasehacker forum. The $7.5k credit off the the cap cost makes it a real cheap lease on 53k Jeep.

— Rocksteadyrobk, 4xeForums

One development that could positively or negatively affect sales of the 4xe later in 2022 is if Congress passes changes to the federal EV tax credit. Depending on where the legislation ends up, the Wrangler 4xe could see an increase in the tax credit amount potentially to $9,000 or a reduction to $4,000. Regardless, 2022 portends to be a fascinating year to monitor (and guess) how the Wrangler 4xe and RAV4 Prime fare in the battle to be the best-selling PHEV in the US.

Loren McDonald

Loren McDonald

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