The Missing Electric-Drive Vehicles From Chrysler's Product Plan

By Bill Moore

Posted: 04 Nov 2009

During a six-hour marathon presentation, Chrysler Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne and a team of executives presented their plan to revive their mutual fortune by eliminating models, introducing new ones -- many from the Fiat Group -- and refreshing older ones.

But missing from the presentations was any mention of the role of electric-drive vehicles of any shade. Chrysler has no production hybrids and only a handful of concept electric vehicles from its very quiet ENVI division. The company has talked about offering a electric sports car comparable to the Tesla Roadster, also based on a Lotus model. There's speculation that we might see an electric version of the Fiat 500 pictured above.

According to media reports from the 400 or so journalists present for the presentation, no announcements were made regarding the fate of GEM or future electric-drive cars; battery, plug-in or conventional hybrids. Instead, what the plan envisions is a much-needed shift to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles based on Fiat Group platforms and engines. I lifted the graphs below from Joe Veltri's Product Plan presentation.

Chart 1 shows the shift towards more fuel efficient engines for the 2014 model year compared to 2010.

Chart 2 indicates as similar shift in vehicle sizes, including the introduction of Micro-class vehicles like the Fiat 500. Large and full-sized vehicles decrease from a 55% share of the fleet to 42%, while small vehicles increase to 58%.

Chart 3 shows the ratio of Fiat Group-based models will be integrated into the new Chrysler with more than half originating from the Italian group.

This is a very pragmatic plan that appears to be counting on relatively stable oil prices and status quo government policies over the next five years. Certainly, it has a chance of breathing new life and excitement into a tired brand that continues to lose senior executives at a brisk pace, along with market share. But it is of some concern that neither Fiat nor Chrysler appear to be thinking much beyond 2014, at least at this time. I would hope that we hear follow-on announcements from their ENVI unit, perhaps at the next Detroit Auto Show, but it seems this would have been a logical opportunity to electrify the product line a bit.

ADDENDUM: CHRYSLER EV FORECAST: MOSTLY CLOUDY

It turns out that Chrysler and Fiat do have a plan for electrification of their product line, but it's a pretty "cloudy" forecast punctuated by the following statement on Slide 4 of the Powertrain presentation:
Electrification/hybrids will expand once they become a cost effective proposition to final customer
Chart 4 below comes from Slide 11 of Paolo Ferrero's Powertrain presentation.

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