Fiat Chrysler Thinks Americans Outside of California Don't Know What the Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Is

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
fiat chrysler thinks americans outside of california don t know what the pacifica

It’s a fact that California contains half of the country’s electric vehicles and a solid chunk of America’s hybrids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean residents of the other 49 states can’t tell a plug-in hybrid from a turnip.

As all-electric range grows, plug-in hybrids have begun eclipsing conventional hybrids in the U.S. marketplace, enticing buyers with the prospect of leaving the gas engine shut off (potentially) for the whole commute. After hopping on the green bandwagon with its Pacifica Hybrid, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was able to boast of having the only plug-in minivan in North America.

Only, it won’t boast about the “plug-in” part anywhere except California. Nope, you won’t hear the company call it a plug-in in New York City, or Seattle, or Chicago. Not in Vermont or Georgia, either. Apparently those people just can’t handle it.

While crafting its nationwide marketing materials, Chrysler’s ad team specifically omitted any reference to plug-in capabilities out of fear that would-be buyers would think it was a fully electric vehicle. Full-on EVs still suffer from an image problem. Expensive, yes, but still not capable of nearly limitless driving. Range anxiety remains a top concern.

“What happens when the Pacifica plug-in hybrid drains its battery?” was the question asked by these hypothetical viewers. Of course, in such a situation the Pacifica plug-in simply fires up its Atkinson-cycle 3.6-liter V6 and continues driving as a conventional hybrid. But that’s clearly outside the realm of comprehension for the average Iowan. Or Rhode Islander.

Thankfully for the enlightened folks in California, a state-specific Chrysler Pacifica marketing campaign will use the “plug-in” reference after the automaker felt it would help sales, not hinder them.

“People here see it as a benefit and understand that that’s worth more,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of FCA’s passenger car brands in the U.S., in an interview with Bloomberg.

Today saw FCA’s two-stage California-centric marketing campaign kick off with the Pacifica plug-in’s “Charge Across California Tour.” Public test drives and presentations will show Golden State residents the glories of the Toyota Prius Prime of minivans, followed by digital and broadcasts ads. Workshops detailing the electrified Pacifica will target employees of high-tech companies scattered around California.

While FCA doesn’t feel the rest of the country is ready to hear the term “plug-in,” that doesn’t mean it’ll remain perpetually under wraps. Talk to your neighbor or brother-in-law or co-worker about hybrid powertrains. Talk to them about car design. Ask them about whether Eagle, Plymouth or Pontiac still exist. There’s no shortage of low (auto) information folks out there.

And, truth be told, plug-in hybrids remain extremely rare compared to internal combustion models. According to, plug-in hybrids made up just 0.53 percent of June auto sales in the U.S., with the Pacifica Hybrid representing 1,367 units of the nearly 30,000 PHEVs sold in the first half of 2017. Contrast that with the 12,399 gas-only Pacificas sold in June alone.

When knowledge of the technology catches up, so will FCA’s marketing, Kuniskis said.

“Five years from now ‘plug-in’ will not be scary to anybody,” he explained. “People that buy minivans are not high-tech, performance-oriented people that are interested in how the car works. They’re interested in what the car can do for them. They don’t care how the engine works. Just tell me that it gets great fuel economy and does what I need it to do.”

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Jul 21, 2017

    I see plenty of new Pacifica's in the NYC area but have yet to see a hybrid on the road. Yet there are ads for them on TV every day.

  • S is for Supra S is for Supra on Jul 21, 2017

    I don't mind losing the stow n go as long as I can remove the seats I only do so a couple times a year. The two problems I have with the PHEV Pacifica is the content it loses from the limited trim and the fact you can get a gas version for $10k off sticker (if you meet all the criteria). Once the PHEV is $4k off sticker and the Federal credit hasn't run out then I'll over look the lack of memory seats and so forth.

  • MaintenanceCosts The Thunderbird SVE used a supercharged version of the 2-valve Mod, not the 4-valve one at issue here.There were nonstop rumors in the early 90s that the 4-valve engine would end up in the P71, making a true competitor to the LT1-powered bubble Caprice, but it never happened.
  • MaintenanceCosts Removing hardware that is already present in a physical machine you bought is theft. Someone affected should sue Tesla for conversion.It's just one more example of the sort of sharp business practices that you expect with Elmo at the helm..
  • Theflyersfan Needed an updated picture of Philadelphia to replace the rather nice ones above.
  • Arthur Dailey Any vehicle with a continental hump, even if vestigial, gets a thumbs up from me.
  • KOKing Actually a place called Sector111 in Temecula, CA was importing them for sale in the US starting around 2012. A friend had a shop right next door, and I recall seeing the very first one the owner imported for himself, and would bring it out to promote at various local events. Also shows this thing's been around for a while.