By on August 1, 2017

2017 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited Sahara - Image: Jeep

As we told you yesterday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is spooked. He can’t count on diesel engines for fuel economy gains anymore — at least, not for long. With governments big and small braying for lower emissions and cracking down on the use of diesel vehicles, FCA’s future lineup requires a gas-sipping solution.

And so, after sitting on the fence for years, the Auburn Hills automaker (which still carries a big, albeit shrinking, debt) has given in. It’ll pour money into electrifying its lineup. In five years, 50-percent of its models should boast some form of electric propulsion, Marchionne claims.

As we’ve learned from the past, FCA’s product promises — and especially its timelines — carry a big grain of salt. But let’s say the company sticks to its goal. And, because this question can go any way the author chooses, you’re replacing Marchionne at the helm.

We already know FCA plans to make Maserati 100-percent electrified, a la Volvo. So, that takes care of a chunk of the company lineup, though far less than 50 percent. It’s up to you to decide what models, from which brands, need an electric boost to carry them into the future.

There’s no shortage of options. A 48-volt mild hybrid system — a solution increasingly favored by German automakers — is reportedly in the works at FCA, though we’ll believe it when we see it. A system like this delivers a not-astounding fuel economy increase, but can do so across a broad product range, and works well in larger vehicles — a segment FCA, like GM and Ford, counts on for revenue.

Still, that’s not the only option. Full-on hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and Chevrolet Volt-like extended-range electric vehicles all offer increasing amounts of gas-free driving, but at a cost. Given its finances, FCA needs an economical solution. Not every model can go the hybrid route. Where does a newly minted CEO go first? Should all crossovers get an available battery and electric drive motor to combat very capable offerings from Japan, or is fiddling with the Dodge Journey not worth it? Should a newer, global model like the second-generation Jeep Compass receive the hybrid love?

And what of the rest of the Jeep lineup? Is it worth it to follow through on tentative plans and drop a hybrid system into the Wrangler? What about Dodge’s rear-drive passenger cars, slated to borrow the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s platform? Acura does some very interesting things with a gasoline engine and bevy of electric motors these days — could the Charger and Challenger see a horsepower boost that also rids the models of their “dinosaur” status? Or is such a thought sacrilege?

Maybe, with the death of the Viper, FCA needs to return to the two-seat supercar fold with an electrified halo car. It’s all up to you, Best and Brightest. There’s regulators and oh-so-green city councils breathing down your neck. FCA’s your baby now. What do you do?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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63 Comments on “QOTD: Take the Helm at Fiat Chrysler – What Models Get the Electrified Treatment?...”


  • avatar
    Maymar

    HELLCAT! Not for the eco cred, but just as an alternative to Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      At first I thought, “What an amazing dumb idea this is.”

      Then I thought, “Oh, hell YES!”

      The ‘Murican muscle car equivalent to the Porsche 918, the Ferrari The Ferrari and McLaren P1.

      It doesn’t even have to be particularly sophisticated. In fact, it should be deliberately UNsophisticated. Put a “boost” switch in the car like Kit had from Knight Rider.

    • 0 avatar

      I would add the Charger to that also. 0-60 in 2.5 – why not!?

  • avatar
    iNeon

    All the models– just like FCA are planning.

    They’re almost done with the universal (48 volt?) hybrid system that’ll bolt into anything they build with the 3.6 engine family– Pacifica was just the first recipient.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “FCA’s your baby now. What do you do?”

    PHEV 5.2L V8.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Browse Bollinger Sergio – not the champers house. Bollinger B1. Now there’s the future competition.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    There’s so much else they have to do.

    – Update the rest of the RWD fleet with the Giulia’s platform
    – Partner with Mazda to develop their next gen FWD platform
    – Update all their engines (iron blocks? Seriously???)

    Once they do all that they can talk about electrification.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      Or they can SKIP some of those steps (update their engine)…

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      There’s so much else they have to do.

      – Update the rest of the RWD fleet with the Giulia’s platform —- Not a bad idea;

      – Partner with Mazda to develop their next gen FWD platform —- Why? When they have so many good FWD platforms already (just not in the US yet;

      – Update all their engines (iron blocks? Seriously???) —- Iron blocks may be heavier, but they don’t corrode nearly as readily as aluminum blocks (ask me how I know.) Even so, if we’re dropping engines altogether, who cares that they’re currently iron and not aluminum?

      Once they do all that they can talk about electrification. —- Or, they could just electrify and avoid all that prior expense.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The problem is that just “electrifying” their current stuff isn’t going to do it – you end up with epic fails like the current 500 electric model. To do electric cars correctly, you have to build them from the ground up. Does FCA have the resources to do that?

    And we can gaze in wonder at the old Malibu hybrid as an example of how not to “hybridize” non-electric vehicles.

    I don’t think FCA has the know-how or capital to really do this.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Probably cheaper and more probable to just give up and pay off the Trump administration to abolish CAFE standards so they can keep selling Jeeps and trucks. That will at least give them a few more years to figure things out.

    I think the Pacifica PHEV is a great idea… they are only 8 months behind in actually getting them to market. This is not a good sign.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I always thought the mild hybrid Silverado/Sierra was a decent idea ahead of its time. A Ram with a well integrated and seamless system could use a small gas or diesel engine for fuel economy, and be able to easily switch to generator mode to power tools and equipment at a job site. You’d have to get over the stigma of “not manly” but if the fuel economy benefits were there you might get some interest.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Chrysler actually co-engineered that project with GM(and BMW) but I think they’ve abandoned the Hemi Hybrid(two-mode?) to fit a version of the Pacifica’s V6/Hybrid system into the next Ram.

      • 0 avatar
        Yesac13

        The Ram pickup truck is the #1 best option to electrify.

        Why? Torque, baby.

        Also… simply improving MPGs by 1-2 in a pickup saves you tons of money vs improving mpgs by 5 mpg in cars.

        Lastly, to be honest… I think trucks with all electric drivetrains are the way to go. Electric trucks would literally be cheaper per year to operate than an econobox for some customers. Just look underneath a typical pickup, there’s tons of space for batteries there. Could shorten the hood by a foot and save some material costs there. Also have a frunk for tools. The beancounters who buy stripper trucks would be going crazy for stripper electric trucks – it costs time to stop and have the truck be refueled or oil change. No need to bother with that with electric trucks. Brakes also last longer. Very good for brutal work cycles on these stripper trucks.

        If Fiat Chrysler is smart, they should roll out a new all electric truck and target it for fleet buyers. Time is money for these fleet buyers and they will pay up to avoid oil changes, brake pad replacement, and fueling costs.

        • 0 avatar
          I_like_stuff

          Do fleet buyers have a secret stash of free electricity somewhere?

          And I’m not sure fleet managers will fall in the love with planning out routes so that their trucks are back at their starting points before the 200 miles or whatever range they have runs out. Oh sorry Mrs. Smith, we’d love to come out and service your heater today but if we do, we’ll be at 217 miles for the day. It will have to wait until tomorrow. Hope you don’t mind, just put on an extra pair of socks tonight.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            People are really reaching for excuses nowadays. Reminds me of the old, “Get a horse!” arguments.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      jack4x – the GM truck hybrid was a huge failure even though it offered pretty clever engineering, which is why it didn’t survive into the current generation. Truck buyers just weren’t interested in paying a significant premium for a 20% increase in fuel economy, which is a much bigger monetary savings than a 20% increase in a small hatchback hybrid. Furthermore, the next generation GM trucks, and Eco-Boost Fords get about the same or better fuel economy as the hybrid Silverado without the hybrid cost and complexity. With low fuel prices projected well into the future, the economics of hybrids don’t make sense until CAFE rules demand it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The economics of a Hybrid pickup or SUV do work out when it is done right. The problem was that the system was not done right and GM only offered the SUV version as the range topping model.

        A well designed hybrid system will increase the MPG much more than just 20% in everyday real world driving.

        Take a look at the estimates for the Camry 4cyl vs the Camry Hybrid. 24 vs 42 in the city. 27 vs 40 in the combined. The Fusion is similar with the 1.5 Ecoboost rated at 23 vs 43 for the Hybrid, in the combined ratings of 27 and 42. 75% increase in city and 50% in the combined for the Camry. The Fusion’s results are 87% and 55%.

        Considering that many fleet pickups are more likely used in a manner closer to the city or combined conditions the potential fuel savings are high.

        Fleets will gobble up the F150 hybrid like there is no tomorrow.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        stingray, The GM trucks still had V8s and were a mild hybrid system, which has not really been successful anywhere it’s been tried. As you said, the fuel economy benefits are not there. A modern 6 or even 4 cylinder with a bigger electric motor and possibly plug-in capability, would get significantly better mileage especially in stop-and-go or long idle periods encountered by contractors. 25 city 30 highway should be attainable and those kind of round numbers would make people and fleets sit up and pay attention. Would it be for everyone? No. But even at $2.25/gallon I bet they would sell some to those that don’t need the maximum payload or towing. CAFE benefits would just be gravy.

      • 0 avatar
        I_like_stuff

        It comes down to this: people who buy trucks/suvs don’t really care about fuel costs. At least not when gas is under $2.50. If it goes to $4 or $5, then that may change.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          @I like stuff, fleets still purchase a large percentage of pickups and they care very much about fuel cost whether it is $2 or $4 per gallon. Yes at $4 a gallon the payback comes much quicker but it still comes at $2.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m not sure what FCA will do. Perpetually short on money and R&D (too many customers burned as beta testers in the past?) and lack of competitive reliability makes me wonder if they have a future at all.

    All in all, I really don’t care about them. Too many OEMS and models anyway. The market isn’t supporting all of them to make all of the effort worthwhile.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    The answer to this question for companies that have multiple brands is easy. Choose one brand, and make all of its models be electric. That way customers know all of the vehicles for that brand are electric.

    With Tesla they only do electrics. So no confusion. There is a certain element of cool and hip with electrics, you choose your coolest brand for that.

    In the case of Fiat-Chrysler that should be Chrysler (at least as far as American brands go). Leave Dodge as the muscle car/classic ICE, and Jeep for now is ok with 4×4 image.

    For GM, Caddy should go that route. For Ford, it should be Lincoln. Lexus and Infiniti for Japan. Germans have a much more difficult time choosing how to migrate, as Mercedes and Audi and BMW are what bring the bacon in, and they can’t go full electric and not pay the bills. May be BMW can go with Mini as electric.

    But if any of the legacy manufacturers want to be successful in electrics and survive long term, they sign a agreement with Tesla, and incorporate the supercharger and Tesla technology into their cars. Buy Tesla stock if you want to be a millionaire.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Modular electric engine with a small gas engine as a generator and backup propulsion system. Both engines supplement the other when needed. 660cc engines from Japan should do the trick just fine for the lighter weight cars, or a modern version of the Suzuki 1000 cc three=banger, and maybe a 1500cc for heavier vehicles. If the batteries go flat, you can still cruise at 70 just fine with less than 60 HP, and recharge at the same time, or let the generator idle while you use the men’s room.

    Rechargable, refillable liquid electrolyte will replace gasoline in the brave new future, and solid batteries just might go the way of the vacuum tube.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Years ago they had a minivan and Wrangler that were hybrid powered in development. Then they abandoned it. It was reported at the time they could travel about 400 miles on 8 gallons.

    Zackman, I think you mean perceived reliability. If you are referring to the minivan transmissions, they were no worse than the glass units Honda put out. They don’t have the cam problems that GM has in the cylinder deactivation on the V8 motors.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Four North American lines.

    Jeep: ‘because Jeep’. And to remain internal combustion ’cause there ain’t no plug ins in the wilderness.

    Ram: Pick ups and large SUV’s. Also internal combustion engines. Diesel, a ‘hemi’ and for those looking for something cheaper why not a ‘modernized’ version of the classic 225 slant six?

    Dodge: High Performance. Perhaps even as others have said, electric high performance. Viper, Hellcat, Charger.

    Chrysler (but name the base models as Plymouths(!!!): Above all make them reliable, something that is not synonymous with either Chrysler or Fiat. Include a Mitsu or Mazda style warranty. Spend the money required to use better parts and techniques. Build and sell minivans, people movers, a large sedan (?) and perhaps even a station wagon type of vehicle. All with either hybrid options.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Chrysler (but name the base models as Plymouths(!!!): Above all make them reliable, something that is not synonymous with either Chrysler or Fiat.”

      There’s the rub.

      I realize that FCA and Chrysler before that has been a punching bag for about 30 years, and sometimes with good reason. Too many recall the Ultradrive and its many names since issues, the 2.7L oil sludging, and most recently the transmission programming.

      Unfortunately, while Toyota & Honda and others get a pass, FCA doesn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Toyota and Honda get a pass because their reliability flops are usually exceptions, not the rule. Then we have FCA…

        FCA doesn’t get a pass because it hasn’t earned a pass.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “FCA doesn’t get a pass because it hasn’t earned a pass.”

          I disagree with that remark. I’ve now owned two different FCA products and their drivetrains have been rock solid. No problems in a Fiat 500 (2014 model) and no problems in a Renegade (Tigershark engine with 9-speed auto.)

  • avatar
    jack4x

    If they do make a 2 seater electric or hybrid performance car, I hope they have the decency to let the Viper name rest in peace. Every Viper ever made has been 8 liters plus, 10 cylinders, RWD, with a 6 speed manual. A V6 hybrid, or full electric, AWD, DCT, sports car might be a blast to drive but it isn’t a Viper.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Simple. Whatever FCA sells the most of. If you’re looking to buy an EV but would never otherwise consider a compact or hatchback CUV, no sale.

    Now an all-electric Ram truck would have my undivided attention! Rams already have a locked-in (industrial/utilities) fleet audience.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Has anyone made any kind of serious all-electric pickup effort? I don’t see how you’d make it effective for the kinds of things trucks have to do – they’re heavy to begin with, which means you’d have to have a huge number of batteries, and that just adds more weight.

      It’d be interesting, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Yesac13

        Think about it… going from a regular gas car to an electric car does save you running costs per year… but not that dramatic.

        Trucks on the other hand, boy it’s dramatic. 15-20 mpg to all electric. That’s $2k to 5k gasoline savings per year depending on mileage driven. I think the fleet buyers will get the stripper electric trucks soon. A stripper electric truck can be done for 50 grand I think.

        No need to schedule gas fillups, oil changes and so on. Time is money for these fleet buyers – they get rid of their trucks at around 65k miles because the potential time down for repairs just causes too much trouble. Electric will work well for these. Just tow a big generator for the worksite if no electricity available and recharge the fleet of trucks with that…

        Also, don’t forget that electric trucks will partly kill off forklifts. Just drive indoors, no need to use forklifts in certain building types.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “A stripper electric truck can be done for 50 grand I think.”

          And that’s the rub…a stripper work truck costs FAR less than that. And you still have range concerns.

          If the tech advances, I could see electric work trucks being a boon, for the reasons you’re talking about (less mechanical downtime, less fuel costs, etc). But with the current state of tech, I can’t see them being all that feasible.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I don’t know of any commercial fleets that regularly replace their trucks that soon. For my state a pickup needs to rack up at least 150K or have hung around for 12 years before it will be eligible for replacement.

          I’m also not seeing them kill off any forklifts, sure you can drive the truck into the building but that doesn’t get the items out of the steel and no one wants to load a pallet of items one at a time. Plus with modern emissions it is not a big deal to drive a vehicle into the warehouse, I’ve done it many times.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @Yesac: I don’t think you realize just how economical electric drive can be. Even at their excess weight, the Tesla Model S (used just as the best model for the example) averages an equivalent of 80mpg, more than double that of the Fiat 500 at about a third of its weight. Add to this that the cost of electricity is about a third that of premium gas in most areas (taking region for region) and the Model S saves almost 66% in fuel costs alone against a similarly-sized car.

          This would work almost as well for the trucks as the difference in aerodynamics would cost some economy at highway speeds but demonstrate superior economy in suburban and urban use at lower speeds (45mph or less.)

          BUT… for some users there still stands the necessity for longer ranges than 200-300 miles per charge. While charging would be simple and not all that wasteful of time as some insist when using a high-speed charger (100kW or more) a range-extender engine whose sole purpose is to help maintain battery charge could add another 200-300 miles to that range easily enough and still be smaller than the typical pickup truck engine. The issue then becomes one of needing to both recharge the batteries AND refuel the engine at that 600-mile mark. Still, after 10 hours or so of driving, you’re probably wanting to take a break anyway, no?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Workhorse the former GM P30 line, that was then owned by Navistar, is offering a EV pickup and they claim they have enough orders to start production soon. They aren’t doing too bad with their EV walk in trucks either.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Yes. Chevy made an S10 EV and Ford made a Ranger EV. There are still some out there on the road today.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      “Rams already have a locked-in (industrial/utilities) fleet audience.”

      Huh Ram is dead last by a mile in the commercial fleet dept. Up time and total cost of operation are major concerns and Chrysler products don’t shine in those categories. My County and state will occasionally buy a 3500 ram cab and chassis but 1500’s and gas powered 3/4 and 1 tons make up the vast majority of commercial fleets.

      Plus they have earned a reputation for electrical problems so when electricity is a major part of the drive train they are unlikely to gain an audience.

  • avatar
    azfelix

    Start by electrifying all of the chair models in the engineering department, especially quality control. Settings initially set at 4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

    The design department should get a variable range of 1 to 5.

    Finally, electrify each of the seats in the board room but default the setting to 10.

    Shareholders vote monthly on adjusting the current and whether to close the switch.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XIwUxmtX5U

  • avatar
    stingray65

    My suggestion would be a Wrangler EV with Rubicon package that includes a high ground clearance trailer packing a diesel generator. This would allow the smooth electric torque to help you creep over rocks and obstacles, while also allowing you to recharge your depleted EV batteries out on the trail, and perhaps also power the TV, laptop, fridge, and microwave for those that really enjoy roughing it just like the cowboys in the old west.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      As long as I’m dreaming, I’d replacing the range extending trailer with a small turbine APU mounted near the rear bumper.

      It’d be real quiet, until you spool up the jet engine.

      But, back to real life…

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Chrysler was in on the Two-Mode hybrid with GM but abandoned its’ Durango implementation before it went into production.

    Chrysler (pre-FCA) also had developed a “through-the-road” hybrid that would be an ideal and easy implementation on just about any vehicle to give it eAWD. You can make a 4×2 truck eAWD with an electric front drive or make a Journey eAWD with electric rear drive. For truck hybrids though, for cryin out loud, do NOT screw with tow ratings. Tweak the hybrid tuning to max regen and aid takeoff in tow mode. The hybrid “trucks” have weak tow ratings.

    The new Hurricane turbo 4 could give some opportunity for hybridization both in the Wrangler but potentially in the LX cars with the electric drive filling in for turbo lag and any peak shortcomings.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing a diesel-electric serial hybrid in a truck. Maybe with the 3.0V6 in a HD Ram run like a locomotive, but with enough battery capacity for short-range electric only operation when lightly loaded.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Eventually? All of them. Even the dedicated off-road Wrangler could benefit from an electric drive capable of providing more torque than any factory-installed ICE. If it carries an ICE at all, it should be as a range-extender. I’ll grant it would need better waterproofing than most but it would make engine flooding a near impossibility even without the need for a snorkel.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If the Dart had been an EV, it might still be with us. It’s a great-looking car, on par with the Model 3.

    An electric drivetrain would have been far superior to the lousy ICE ones it received. But alas, it was a porker, and so range would have been short, and dealer support would have been terrible.

    As for current models, FCA should only hybridize volume sellers (as standard, not optional).

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I’ll give you a thumbs up on that one, SCE . The Dart itself really wasn’t as bad as the early reviews made it because the non-(Federally mandated)MPG models were pretty lively and owners liked them. At least, the owners I knew liked them. As a BEV they’d have been practically unstoppable… but only if designed as a BEV from the beginning.

      The Fiat 500e BEV is actually a pretty good car itself, if a bit short-ranged, but the cost factor is due to the fact that they’re taking an ICE platform and replacing the drivetrain with batteries and motors, trying to stuff them wherever they’ll fit. A purpose-built version would have cost FCA much less on a per-unit basis and enabled a much broader range of platforms for electrification. Rather than losing $10k per unit, they’d probably be making $2-$4K instead.

      Note: it seems TTAC’s forum software doesn’t like emojis.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Instead of scattering a little bit of hybrid technology here and there, why not try for a moon shot: a full electric (or at least a plug in hybrid) pickup by a major manufacturer? There is enough room for a flat Tesla-style battery pack under the cargo bed. If a tiny company like Workhorse can sell theirs for $42,500 then Ram ought to be able to use an existing platform to build something more than competitive. The hybrid Pacifica got attention because it was the first hybrid minivan, a pickup would really make the news.

  • avatar
    RS

    Electrify larger vehicles that the market wants – SUV’s, Vans and Pickups. It’s ridiculous to electrify anything small. Start with the Durango.

    The hybrid Pacifica was a great move.

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