By on March 22, 2010

In the leadup to its bailouts and bankruptcy, Chrysler seemed to have suddenly gotten religion about zero-emissions technology, parading around several ENVI electric vehicle prototypes. By the time Fiat had cleared the cobwebs from new product development in Auburn Hills, the EV vaporware had faded into nothingness. With the need to impress politicians ostensibly in Chrysler’s past, the ENVI program was rolled into Chrysler’s normal product development process, and we no longer had to choke back laughter at the idea that Chrysler would replace its unloved Sebring with the pure-electric 200C concept. Chrysler’s embarrassing Two-Mode hybrids were also hidden from view, with only a vague indication that a hybrid Ram might someday become available. When we talked to Ram CEO Fred Diaz at last November’s Five Year Plan announcement, he said that a hybrid Ram was still being considered. Now, egmcartech reports that the Ram hybrid is dead from a commercial standpoint, and that the program will turn into a plug-in hybrid test fleet for Chrysler’s best partner: The Department of Energy, which gave the form $48m to develop a fleet of 140 plug-in Rams. But don’t worry consumers, there’s an alt-energy Chrysler in your future… sort of.

Though the Ram Hybrid has reverted to its original purpose (convincing politicians their (our) money was well-spent on Chrysler), an electric version of the Fiat 500 has been approved for production, and will go on sale starting in 2011. The Freep reports that 500s built at Toluca, Mexico, will have A123 Systems lithium-ion battery packs installed at an undisclosed location, to create the Fiat 500 EV. Chrysler won’t reveal the 500 EV’s power, capacity or range, let alone its price point. Meanwhile, the 500 EV will come out after the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt start making inroads on America’s EV early adopters.

Needless to say, none of this is wildly encouraging. our interpretation has been that Chrysler avoided too much talk of alt-energy drivetrains because its core business is in such bad shape. Thus far, nothing has changed that conclusion. Chrysler will be releasing some 14 new or refreshed products in the next 12 months, and making those launches successful will require the full attention of Chrysler’s limited resources. A major component in those plans is the need to develop a Fiat 500 dealer network, and the 500 EV won’t be going anywhere until that has been resolved. And Chrysler’s relationship with its dealers still needs a lot of work before new franchises can be issued. If Chrysler does launch a number of halfway-respectable products next year, a niche EV isn’t a bad place for expansion, but it will be entering the market late and will be spearheading its efforts with an expensive little a car that will likely offer few advantages over a Smart EV.

It’s going to take a lot more than this announcement to make Chrysler believers out of us.

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12 Comments on “Chrysler Cancels Hybrid Ram, Approves Fiat 500 EV For Production...”

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The little lightweight 500 makes a better case for an urban-oriented EV runabout than the Leaf, if the price point comes in right.

    • 0 avatar

      I would love to have one of these for my High Schoolers to get back and forth to school and all their “events”, and to run family errands around town. Let’s wait and see the cost of one.

      As far as the Hybrid Ram, it’s yet another clueless decision by the almighty idiotic Daimler management. Well, if I am not mistaken the two-mode hybrid was a joint venture between GM/BMW/ and DCX.

  • avatar
    Jason Porter

    “an expensive little a car that will likely offer few advantages over a Smart EV.”

    I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. Having driven both the Smart and the Fiat 500, they are in no way similar, in the driving experience or in the physical build quality. Comparing the two is like comparing the Toyota Yaris to the Mini Cooper… they’re both small, but it just doesn’t compute.

  • avatar

    “Limited Resources” is the operative term.

    With Chrysler slapping $10,000 in incentives on the hood of a Caravan and over $8,000 on the new Ram, SM’s claim of break even in 2010 is a pipedream (after all, he said they would cut production before going the incentive route. So much for that.)

    As incentives go up, so does the sales break even number.

    Look for Chrysler to have their hand out again before year’s end.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    They may not have the investment cash to develop a hybrid Ram, but it’s good that they’re gonna run a small fleet of test vehicles, anyways. I still think that’s where hybrids would pay off big, on heavier vehicles rather than subcompacts.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s absolutely no reason you can’t do both. They make the most technical sense in larger vehicles, but, except for certain fleets, the market is stronger for smaller vehicles.

  • avatar

    It’s much more attractive to look at than the Leaf.

  • avatar

    We’re more likely to see volume production from Tesla, than electric anything from these people

  • avatar

    When I saw the Electric Wrangler I knew the whole ENVI thing was pure vaporware to boost their chances of getting largess from Uncle Sugar.

    The Wrangler is pretty much the worst vehicle on earth to offer as a EV.

  • avatar

    Canadian Chrysler promo piece in the mail.

    On the Caravan, $6500 plus $1,000 loyalty money, plus employee discount, plus no freight ($1,400). Just about 10K.

    A $30,000 Caravan discounted to $19,700. (give or take a few bucks. The piece already hit the shredder).

  • avatar

    Dont know and really don’t care for EV. What I know is everytime my wife sees a 500 she says, a little under her breath, but w/ conviction, “I’ll buy me one of those someday”. And this from a lady who can’t tell the difference between a Smart and a Ram. If enough people think like her.

    BTW I’d love her to do it, since i could never rationalize its pricing.

    More power to yhou my love!

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