Will India’s Jeep compact SUV get Citroen’s electric drive tech?

A report from economictimes.indiatimes.com today reads that a Citroen micro-SUV codenamed the Citroen eCC21 will be launched in India in 2022 leading to the possibility of a Jeep sub-4 metre SUV in an EV variant.

FCA and Groupe PSA, the respective parent companies of Jeep and Citroen, are closer than ever having merged and formed Stellantis with a 50:50 ownership structure. The alliance will focus on platform and component sharing, especially in the low-cost segments where the French conglomerate has an upper hand.

Will the baby Jeep use the ‘Small Wide’ or migrate to the eCMP?

The Jeep sub-4 metre SUV for India (code: Jeep 526) was given the green signal way before the merger with Groupe PSA, back in the days of Sergio Marchionne’s leadership. The idea of a baby Jeep has been floating since 2012, initially speculated as riding on the Fiat Panda platform, one that was shortly thereafter rejected.

The plan then was to build it on FCA’s small-wide 4×4 architecture that underpins SUVs up to the size class of a Jeep Compass, with heavy revisions for the downsizing. According to a fresh report from quattroruoute.it (via clubalfa.it), FCA is reviewing the SUV project and considering the switch to Groupe PSA’s CMP platform, which has a BEV purpose derivative called the eCMP.

In March, FCA had confirmed that EV models for India are planned. In August torino.corriere.it reported that the company halted the development of its small car portfolio and plans to switch to a Groupe PSA platform. From the letter sent out to suppliers, it had discontinued its B-segment platform project.

Jeep India future models
Both small-wide 4×4 architecture and CMP can support a pure electric powertrain, but only the former allows a 4WD drivetrain layout which throws a curve ball.

The majority of the B-segment cars/small cars/sub-compact cars will be based on Groupe PSA’s CMP platform. The company concluded its message stating that the cooperation has nothing to do with the FCA-Groupe PSA 50/50 merger announced in December 2019. Initially, it was thought that this may have applied to only the B-segment vehicles in Europe, as the letter specified Italian and Polish subsidiaries as the senders. FCA manufactures the Fiat Panda, Fiat 500X, Fiat 500L and the Jeep Renegade in these countries all of which are heading to the end of the lifecycle. However, it looks like even new projects like the Jeep sub-4 metre SUV are under evaluation for the CMP platform switch.

eCMP is a strict two-wheel drive platform, but that would not be a concern for Jeep in a market like India where customers want the looks, and not necessarily the full capability of an SUV. However, it would be a issue for customers in Europe and other regions using such small SUVs in snowy conditions and also for leisure purposes like mountaineering and hiking. Moreover, for Jeep purists it would be impossible to fathom a vehicle without an offroad capability bearing the seven-slot grille.

Groupe PSA co-developed the CMP (and hence eCMP) with Chinese partner Dongfeng Motors. It has already released four EVs based on eCMP in Europe. According to The Economic Times report, the company is going to mass-produce key parts of the Citroen eCC21 EV in India as it plans to even export them to Europe. So, FCA can tap into Groupe PSA’s resources and launch the Jeep sub-4 metre SUV in India at a competitive price to take on ‘soft’ type SUVs like the Maruti Vitara Brezza, Kia Sonet and the Hyundai Venue which are tall hatchbacks with squared edges.

Platform sharing arrangements have become commonplace in India with Hyundai & Kia, Ford & Mahindra, VW & Skoda and Renault & Nissan applying them to India-specific cars.

The small-wide 4×4 architecture does allow a four-wheel drive drivetrain layout, which makes it a more attractive proposition from the global parlance and products using it a Jeep in every sense. The Quattroruoute report suggests that Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo alternatives of the Jeep 526 are planned. This makes considering European customers’ preferences more important.

Tracking the Jeep mini SUV project should prove interesting as important calls would be taken with respect to the architecture, variants and manufacturing plan in 2021.