Jeep choose the Shangai auto show to show off its Yuntu concept, a plug-in hybrid 7 passenger SUV that appears to be intended strictly for the Chinese market. While the concept retains traditional Jeep design cues like the grille with seven vertical bars, it also is a little less chunky on the outside and decidedly more Swedish Modern on the inside than any other Jeep product. “From 2018, Yuntu’s design features will be reflected in the new models of GAC FCA, from fossil fuel to alternative-energy vehicles,” Daphne Zheng, Jeep’s sales chief in China, told the press at the Shanghai show.

Jeep representatives at the show were reluctant to provide any details about the powertrain for the Yuntu — a word that means “cloud” in Chinese — other than to say the car would have 40 miles of range and wireless charging standard. They actually refused to say if the car was a plug-in hybrid but the PHEV badges on the exterior pretty much gave the game away. A company statement says the Yuntu will feature both voice and facial recognition software.

“SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in China,” the company said in a statement, “and the Jeep Yuntu Concept showcases the potential for the Jeep brand to keep expanding in the country.” Jeep first began selling vehicles in China in the 1980’s as part of a joint venture called Beijing Jeep. It recently entered into a new joint venture called GAC FCA with Guangzhou Automobile Group as its Chinese partner. The partnership started building Jeeps in 2015.

Jeep Yunto plug in hybrid SUV concept

The FCA press release suggested the Yuntu could inspire a new flagship for Jeep in China. There is speculation it may also offer clues about future Jeep models in the US, including the rumored reincarnation of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Some members of the press believe the powertrain for the Yuntu is based on the system developed by FCA for the Pacifica Hybrid minivan, but the company has declined to provide any specifics. At this time, it isn’t even known whether the Yuntu has front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or all wheel drive.

Jeep builds the Cherokee, Renegade, and Compass in China. Sales of those three vehicles approached 50,000 in the first quarter of 2017 — an increase of 110% over the same quarter last year. Jeep also imports the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler into China. Imported cars in China are subject to a tariff of about 25%, making it hard for them to compete with locally produced vehicles.

The statement by Jeep that SUV’s are a rapidly growing segment of the Chinese market is a bit disingenuous. They are hugely popular in the US as well, yet Jeep has shown little to no interest in building a plug-in hybrid SUV for customers in America.

Source: Automotive News