As we noted in our rundown of the New New Chrysler’s powertrain plans, the Pentastar’s ENVI electrification task force wasn’t mentioned once during seven hours of presentation. Well, by name anyway. Weirdly though, as the slide above shows, Fiat is making Chrysler the focal point for the alliance’s hybrid and electric technology development. Wouldn’t that make the bailout-baiting, vaporware-hawking ENVI crew the go-to guys for both Chrysler and Fiat’s long-term powertrain plans? Er, no.
“ENVI is absorbed into the normal vehicle development program,” Chrysler spokesfolks confirm to Automotive News [sub]. With the death of the two-mode hybrid alliance, Chrysler is not even trying to leverage its only hybrid technology. Over lunch last Wednesday, Ram Brand CEO Fred Diaz sounded skeptical about the possibility of even launching a hybrid Ram, a previously confirmed decision. Given the massive failure of hybrid full-size SUVs, and the undeniably vaporish smell emanating from ENVI, none of this is particularly surprising as a short-term decision. Longer term though, neither Fiat nor Chrysler have anything beyond a few ICE-improving incremental upgrades (direct injection, multiair, turbocharging, stop-start) with which to lure investors into an IPO.
After all, that is the real value of an EV/hybrid development program. Nobody thought Chrysler had a serious chance at putting 500,000 battery-powered vehicles on the road by 2013, as they swore they would at last January’s Detroit Auto Show. But they were safely ushered through bankruptcy with taxpayer money just in case. Instead of hawking vapor though, the new Fiat-led Chrysler is publicly admitting that its hybrid/electrification plans are vapor. Just look at this slide.
Can you see the clouds of vapor around the phrases “Synergy in Core technology and electrical grid interface” and “future PHEV Applications”? Sergio Marchionne was very clear that he’s not impressed by the battery solutions that are out there, but unlike every other major manufacturer, Fiat isn’t moving fast to secure access to the technologies that do exist or getting in line for future developments. Perhaps Marchionne knows that there’s enough challenges to Chrysler’s short-term future without worrying about anything past 2014. Perhaps he’s even making a bold move by ignoring current technology, the success of the Prius and potential for rising energy prices (more on this in a bit), but more likely he knows there’s no money to get Fiat or Chrysler close to the big dogs. But that, in a nutshell, is the major caveat to all of Marchionne’s Chrysler plans: the competition is not standing still.