Sergio's Crystal Ball: FCA Boss Doesn't Think EVs Are the Future

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne likes to keep people guessing, which is no surprise to those following the rapid-fire product changes at his company.

With his company’s fortunes buoyed by sales of thirsty Ram and Jeep vehicles, Marchionne remains fascinated and distrustful of electric automaker Tesla, telling Britain’s Car Magazine that the future of propulsion likely lies somewhere else.

The question is, what’s Marchionne doing about it?

The CEO and sweater enthusiast admitted that combustion engines will make up a smaller share of the market in the future, but targeted Tesla by saying the company reminds him of the Internet bubble.

“There is nothing Tesla do that we cannot also do,” said Marchionne. “We build cars, sell them and are still able to pay the bills. But I’m not even sure you can recover all of your costs – let alone generate a profit – through electrification.”

This isn’t the first time Marchionne fired a shot in Tesla’s direction. It’s worth noting that before the plug-in Chrysler Pacifica minivan appeared, FCA’s product lineup contained just one token EV — the money-losing Fiat 500e.

Gasoline vehicles will stay an important part of the market, he said, and while EVs “may be the next big thing,” they might not be the direction the industry takes in the future.

“The answer is bound to be somewhere else, and the question is whether we are doing enough to try to explore that somewhere else,” he added.

Anyone watching FCA’s global expansion of the Jeep brand would probably answer that question by saying “not enough.” If not hydrocarbon fuel or batteries, what then? The only obvious answer is hydrogen fuel cells, but FCA has yet to field a prototype, or even announce development of one.

Last year, FCA chief technology officer Harald Wester made waves in the media by professing his love for fuel cell technology. When pressed, he admitted that current methods of large-scale hydrogen production weren’t very green, and shuffled off the idea of a fuel cell-powered product to some point in FCA’s hazy future.

Back in the pre-bankruptcy/recession era, Chrysler showed off its ecoVoyager concept car at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, but certain financial events conspired to make that effort a distant memory.

Until FCA taps its limited cash pile and makes a move in this direction, Marchionne just looks like someone sitting idly by, casting stones.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Jun 12, 2016

    Here is a sobering article on how the EV and Lithium battery market will fail, along with Elon Musk's Giga Factory. When Elon's Giga Factory fails he will undoubtedly expect the taxpayer to fund him to remain afloat. .............................................................. From the link above; Conclusion. In the lithium-ion battery industry, materials costs are 50 to 70 percent of total manufacturing costs; one of the highest ratios on the planet. Prevailing green mythology holds that lithium-ion battery prices will fall dramatically as anticipated production rates soar due to gigafactories and undefined “economies of scale.” The last time I checked, the difference between a known mineral resource and a reliable factory feedstock was a couple decades of exploration, permitting, development and construction work, coupled with a couple billion dollars in capital spending. Notwithstanding the prevailing green mythology, I’ve never met a miner, or for that matter a mining investor, who was incentivized to embark on a new project by expectations of lower future product prices. They’re all in it for the money. Given the current production dynamics for both lithium and cobalt, I’m firmly convinced that increased demand can only lead to higher raw material prices and excruciating shortages. Since most competitive users of lithium and cobalt are far less sensitive to raw material prices than battery manufacturers, it’s certain that they’ll protect their critical supply chains and the battery industry will either have to pay up or do without. It doesn’t matter how big your battery factory is if you don’t have a rock solid supply chain for your critical minerals. ................................................................ Makes you wonder who correct. Will EVs fail?

    • See 2 previous
    • Shaker Shaker on Jun 12, 2016

      @mcs "ICE technology will commit suicide with the help of regulations." And "regulations" will eventually be replaced by simple "common sense".

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 12, 2016

    Whenever there is a discussion of alternate sources of energy it is limited to just solar and wind. In KY the state has offered incentives to power plants and to land fills to set up mini power plants that use methane gas and put this power back into the grid. My older brother who years ago worked for a municipal waste treatment plant told me that the power and the heating and cooling was generated from methane gas from the sewage. It seems like that if we set up mini power plants in most of the land fills and waste water treatment plants around the US that there would be more than enough power generated. Much better to use the methane gas than to let it go out into the environment. If you take natural gas, methane gas, wind and solar power, and safer more efficient nuclear power eventually the need for coal could be reduced significantly over a period of decades. For now we need to use coal but we do not really have a shortage of energy in as much as not using other sources of energy available to us that are either not being used or underutilized. These additional sources of energy would charge up a lot of EVs without significantly impacting energy needs.

    • Shaker Shaker on Jun 13, 2016

      "If you take natural gas, methane gas, wind and solar power, and safer more efficient nuclear power eventually the need for coal could be reduced significantly over a period of decades." But that would take planning, and government subsidies, because it seems that the only way to profit in the energy industry is to have a monopoly - what you describe is anything but (but is the "smart" way).

  • SCE to AUX Here's some advice - slow down. That's a great way to arrive home safely, without a ticket, with lower blood pressure, and more economically.
  • Dartdude They need to rebrand the models, The standard model should be Wagoneer and long version should be Grand Wagoneer. There should offer the Ram Rev powertrain in these
  • Irvingklaws Seems more like they're adopting Honda styling queues. Now if they would just adopt their reliability...
  • FreedMike "Obsidian Edition."Oooooh, obsidian is really, really hard stuff.
  • John The awesome Infiniti G series saved this company 20 years ago, but they are right back on track to obsolescence. (yawn)