Fiat/Chrysler Walk Away From Electrification And Hybrids

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Don1967 Don1967 on Nov 09, 2009

    This might be the smartest decision yet by Chrysler. Hybrid cars are an expensive "fad" technology whose future is anyone's guess. Let Toyota have that relatively small and risky slice of the pie. As companies like Hyundai have proven, one does not necessarily need to build goofy golf carts to succeed in the car business.

  • Charly Charly on Nov 09, 2009

    The tax-man will make them a required technology in some markets so if Chrysler doesn't have them they can only be a niche brand in those markets ps. i'm not talking about the USA. It is the European and Japanese tax-men that make hybrids (or other highly efficient cars) a requirement. If Chrysler (read fiat) doesn't have them they wont be a player in those markets.

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.
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