By on July 16, 2021

Stellantis

Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, spent some time last week promoting “EV Day” and talking about its EV plans.

We covered the event and the company’s plans. We’ve also noted in the past that many OEMs are talking a big game on EVs but it’s anyone’s guess if they’ll meet the timelines and goals they’ve set for themselves (speaking generally here, and not just about Stellantis).

While the future is up in the air, we do have a record of the past, and speaking about Stellantis specifically, that past has been one of unkept promises.

We can go big and talk about how the “merger of equals” never really was, or small and talk about the Dodge Razor roadster, which could’ve given the company a true competitor for the Miata.

Or we can go EV specific and talk about the company’s failure, just about a decade ago, to bring a promised EV (or three) to market.

Don’t remember this? I do. Probably cause it was a big deal at the time. Remember, there really weren’t EVs on sale yet, and the Detroit Three (still called the Big Three then) and everyone else was racing to get one on the road.

Stellantis

Chrysler promised an extended-range Town & Country minivan, an extended-range Wrangler, and an unnamed two-seat Dodge Sports car that was all-electric.

Only just now are we getting the first electrified Wrangler — the plug-in hybrid 4xe. Chrysler has sold a hybrid version of the Pacifica — which replaced the Town & Country — for a bit now. And that sports car never materialized, even though some folks predicted it would be on sale by the end of 2010. To be fair, Chrysler did offer hybrid models (Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen) back then.

“We have a social responsibility to our consumers to deliver environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient, advanced electric vehicles, and our intention is to meet that responsibility quickly and more broadly than any other automobile manufacturer,” Bob Nardelli, chairman and CEO of then-Chrysler said at the time. “The introduction of the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge electric vehicles provides a glimpse of the very near future and demonstrates that we are serious and well along in the development of bringing electric vehicles to market.”

To be fair to Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis, a big part of the reason these vehicles didn’t make it to market was the havoc caused by the Great Recession. When Fiat took over, it disbanded ENVI, the division that was working on those vehicles, in late 2009. Fiat, of course, owned Chrysler by then thanks to the shakeups that followed Chrysler’s recession-related bankruptcy. Perhaps these vehicles would’ve made it to market had the Great Recession never occurred.

It’s not just EVs. A few years after the Razor concept came and went, Dodge had a chance to build a similar Miata-fighting roadster named the Demon, and that car, too, never was produced.

Again, in the spirit of fairness, we’ll pause to note that every car company has had hot concepts that didn’t make production for one reason or another, or has made promises it hasn’t kept. I think the Stellantis EV Day promises are sticking out more in part because of what happened with ENVI, and in part because the company has seemingly been chasing the rest of the industry when it comes to electrification over the past decade.

I’d also remind readers that past performance isn’t an indicator of future performance, so previous failures from the company don’t mean it won’t meet its goals this time around. External factors matter, too. Stellantis doesn’t seem to be on the verge of bankruptcy, the economy is recovering post-pandemic (even if it may be K-shaped), and the entire industry is more focused on electrification than it was in the late Aughts. And the tech — including support tech like charging — has advanced.

So, Stellantis may well succeed this time. But I couldn’t help but think of the past.

[Images: Stellantis]

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33 Comments on “A Brief History Of Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis Promises That Weren’t Kept...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    “a big part of the reason these vehicles didn’t make it to market was the havoc caused by the Great Recession.”

    I’d say the only reason ENVI existed in the first place was because of the Great Recession. This was ChryslerCo’s way to justify its bailout.

    Really it’s surprising how easily Chrysler skated away on the ENVI boondoggle. They had no ability to meet their production targets and likely no intention to ever build them. However, I still remember some MOPAR-loving TTAC commenters back then fully convinced that ENVI was going to exist and change the world.

    But yes, when it comes to announcements about any company’s EV future I don’t buy into it until product actually hits showrooms.

    • 0 avatar
      MoDo

      Those were dog and pony show cars so they’d get gov’t loans. Everyone knew they were never going to be built lol. The author seems to forget they are popping 35 billion on EV’s – or does he think that is a lie?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      They also had the FCA buyout and the advent of the Marchionne regime. Clearly Marchionne was focused on milking the company’s old platforms, the better to make FCA an attractive merger partner. I don’t know if Marchionne was anti-EV per se, or whether he just realized that spending billions on them ran counter to his “milk the old stuff” strategy. I think it’s more the latter, personally.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Dodge Dakota

    Ram Dakota

  • avatar
    DungBeetle62

    “Miata competitor” isn’t the threat it used to be in the current crossover-and-trucky-thing obsessed climate.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    I was unaware of the existence of that sporty concept i’m going to call the Pronto Razor.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The yellow Dodge EV coupe in the picture was called the Dodge Circuit. Even though it looked like a Diamond Star car it was based on the Lotus Elise/Opel Vauxhall GT platform later to be used by Mr. Musk for the Tesla roadster.

  • avatar

    The yellow EV sports car in the photo is literally just a battery-powered Lotus Europa with a Dodge badge.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    As I recall, weren’t they also promising a Barracuda based on the Giulia platform, and a three-row Chrysler CUV? The latter might have saved the Chrysler brand.

    FCA basically milked as much as it could from old platforms while shopping itself as a merger platform. There’s the most obvious examples – the Charger/300/Challenger, Journey, and Durango/Grand Cherokee – but people often forget the bulk of the Jeep CUV line is based on Euro-market Fiats.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      More than any other automaker ChryslerCo promises tons of stuff that never happens and they’ve been doing it since before I was born. Adding in the FiatCo brands just made the announcements even grander and the results even flatter.

      If everyone is selling EVs then Stellantis will also have EVs available but much of that “EV Day” presentation is fantasy.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        We’ll see but I think they’re a lot more serious about EVS than FCA ever was, if for no other reason than the fact that Stellantis is a European company, and they have to serve their primary market.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I’m not arguing that Stellantis will not build any EVs. I’m sure there will be EV Citroens in Europe. And probably EV Jeeps and EV Rams. Eventually.
          However, that does not mean there will be some Dodge-branded retro-styled AWD 1000hp “eMuscle” car for sale in 2024. Or EV Alfa Romeos. Or many of the other things in their presentation.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      They were considering a Barracuda and they trademarked the name Cuda for a Giulia based sports coupe sized just below a Challenger about the size of the BRZ/86. I think the folks at All Par have a picture of it.
      FCA also promised us the Alfa Mito hot hatch which would have been a neat GTI competitor and for folks who need something a bit larger than a Fiat 500 as well as the Giulietta which was the basis for the Dart/200/Cherokee.
      It’s odd that out of all the prototypes that Daimler Chrysler kept showing they produced the very halo niche Plymouth Prowler instead of the more useable mainstream Pronto and Pronto Spyder. Though they gave us the PT Cruiser.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    When it comes to EVs, most companies overpromise.

    Their public predictions seem to been hatched in a conference room devoid of engineers who could speak the truth about range, cost, manufacturing, and supply chain issues. Not to mention marketing people who could speak the truth about the *actual* sales potential of their new magical EV. But to be fair, marketing types seem mostly deluded when it comes to EVs.

    Pretty much anyone can build an expensive EV in the hundreds, or maybe several thousand, at a significant loss. By the time someone really crunches the numbers on COGS and volume, most companies back away from whole-hearted commitment because they don’t want to lose money on a ‘maybe’.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I have a pretty hard time mustering up any outrage about this.

    Oh no, some money-losing compliance mobiles weren’t foisted on the public.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      The point of the piece wasn’t necessarily to generate outrage. I mean, if you are outraged, fine. But really it was just to point out that there have been big promises that went unkept before, from this company.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        I guess I’ve just thought for a while that pretty much any public statement/prediction about electric vehicles has a fairly low chance of being accurate.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        But it wasn’t this company that did those things it was the former owners who did those things.

      • 0 avatar
        cardave5150

        Really, most of the over-the-top-and-never-kept product promises came from FCA (and mostly from Sergio Marchionne). This is the first series of product promises coming from Stellantis (assuming that Carlos Tavares has ultimate say-so on what is promised for the future).

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The reality is with the change of owners it is always likely that the new owner will take the company in a new direction since they weren’t up for sale because they were doing great.

    So yeah when Daimler bought Chrysler they dropped the projects that they didn’t believe in or didn’t fit with the new company.

    Cerebus intention was the typical LBO, take it private, sell off assets, artificially pump up sales in the short term w/o regard to long term profitability and then take it back public once they have extracted all the value they could but before the bills come/consequences of their actions catch up to them. Of course their timing couldn’t have been worse.

    That meant our gov’t gave them to Fiat. Fiat’s main target was Jeep and in fact they were one of the companies who kept bugging Daimler to sell them Jeep when they were busy trying to off load the Dodge and Chrysler brands. So yeah they also neglected things that weren’t Jeep or Ram because the intended end game always was to make the company attractive to a buyer.

    Now we have Stellantis which really can’t be blamed for the actions of the previous owners. There also isn’t really and end game beyond actually making the company profitable in the long term since the company is too big to sell.

    So at this point I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that they do intend to follow through with their current plans and they have put some thought into them beyond this will make the company attractive to potential buyers.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A brief history of Chrysler:

    Company is functionally bankrupt – gets aid from ‘guberment

    Ford tells Lee Iacocca to take a hike and take his stupid minivan idea with him

    Iacocca takes over a gasping Chrysler

    K-Car

    Voyager, Caravan, Town and Country – profit

    1996 movie Twister is actually 96 minutes long Dodge Ram commercial

    Daimler-Benz buys Chrysler for $36B

    Chrysler gets LX platform and incredible dysfunction out of the deal – Daimler-Benz runs the company into the ground in spectacular fashion

    Cerberus buys a majority stake in GMAC in 2006 (keep reading, this is important)

    Daimler-Benz sells Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus for $7.4B and holds a 19.9% stake in the new company in 2007

    Cerberus tries to eject as much of GMAC and Chrysler finance as it can in June 2008

    September 2008 credit markets freeze

    Cerberus wants GM to take over Chrysler – GM concludes that a sinking rock tied to another sinking rock sinks faster

    Cerberus calls all floor financing on GM dealers through GMAC and cuts off finance paper for new car purchases in last-ditch effort to force a merger

    GM and Chrysler go bankrupt – Cerberus cries poverty and gets bailout despite having plenty of financial resources – Fiat steps in

    Ram becomes its own brand

    Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart both complete flop

    Fiat acquisition of Chrysler finishes in 2014 for $6.3B total, but about $4.1B actually came from Fiat – somehow Americans love it

    Chrysler gets totally ignored by Fiat

    R&D budgets slashed across the board because Sergio wants Alfa everything – vehicles like the Dodge Journey soldier on

    Jeep and Ram become the only things relevant

    Hellcat, HEMI, put it in everything!

    Fiat gets inhaled into a new company called Stellanis – basically French – Chrysler itself is a dead brand walking – Mopar faithful insist LX platform is still modern and relevant

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Pretty much sums it up, but you did leave out one key GM-Fiat link to this whole mess. The Sweater did a $4.4 Billion con job on GM that allowed them to still be in the game when the federal gov’t was looking for someone to dump the smoking hulk of Chrysler on. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/14/business/worldbusiness/gm-will-pay-2-billion-to-sever-ties-to-fiat.html

      I would also disagree that the Dart was a flop. Yes it was a flop as a commercially viable car but that was never the intended purpose. The sole purpose of that program was to fulfill the agreement to produce a 40mpg car in the US by a certain time frame and volume that was a condition of the US gov’t giving their portion of Chrysler to Fiat.

    • 0 avatar
      midnite_clyde

      Left out 1 key happening: Iacocca chose Eaton instead of Lutz. I always wondered how things would have been different if Lutz ran the show.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Flippant comment:
    This is interesting, because just last week Stellantis published a list of TTAC promises that weren’t kept.

    Serious comment:
    If you take promises made and separate them into a pre-Stellantis pile and a post-Stellantis pile, I predict a majority of the second group of commitments will materialize.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Every time I see a vehicle on the road from Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis, it’s driven by someone who appears to be financially challenged.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “Every time I see a vehicle on the road from Chrysler/FCA/Stellantis, it’s driven by someone who appears to be financially challenged.”

      dude, that’s the neighborhood you live in. EVERYONE is financially challenged.

      Plus, I bet you don’t even see the Pacifica minivans on the road. At all. Not one. Trust me, those aren’t “financially challenged” owners.

      And I know for a fact I’m not one, either.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        Well four of our vehicles are Mopar from the Pacifica to the Roadster and only one has over 100k miles and that is the 200k Durango. I guess I may look financially challenged since I don’t dress all fancy.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I was expecting a dissection of the various 5 year plans put forth by FCA et al. I did not get that..

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