Fiat and Chrysler’s larger than life CEO Sergio Marchionne doesn’t like electric cars, and he’s not afraid of saying so. In fact, over the past few years, he’s spoken out against governments who ‘strong arm’ automakers into producing plug-in cars, moaned about losing $10,000 on every Fiat 500e the company makes, and unequivocally denounced electric cars as unfit for market.
Yet under the recently completed merger between Fiat and Chrylser which sees Fiat owning 100 percent of Chrysler, it appears Chrysler — now joined with Fiat as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) — will offer not one but two plug-in vehicles for market by 2017.
Yes, Marchionne is still company CEO.
The first of two promised plug-in cars will be a plug-in hybrid version of Chrysler’s erstwhile Town & Country minivan, which FCA is planning to bring to market as a 2017 model year. Supposed to achieve somewhere in the region of 75 mpg on the U.S. test cycle — although we and our friends at GreenCarReports think Chrysler means MPGe — a plug-in hybrid Town & Country could sell well if Chrysler manages to deliver it to market before any rival automakers jump into what is currently a massive gap in the market.
The second vehicle to make it to market, Chrysler says, will be a full-sized crossover with a plug-in hybrid option. It will follow the Town & Country PHEV to market in 2017, presumably as a 2018 model year.
In an extensive presentation published yesterday, FCA says it wants to compete in every segment moving forward towards 2018, something which will require it to bring new models to market, from an all-new compact car to new full-size vehicles. As part of the process, it is also killing off models currently produced under more than one badge at FCA to eliminate inter-brand rivalry.
This will leave Chrysler as FCA’s primary brand, with Doge occupying the performance ethos and Jeep reinforcing its already strong image of being the go-anywhere, do-anything brand. Fait, meanwhile, will occupy a similar place to that of MINI over at BMW: it will be the trendy, urban vehicle for young, style-conscious buyers.
At the moment, Chrysler’s proposed plug-in hybrids cover just the E-segment (Full Size) portion of the market, so it’s not clear if FCA wants to expand plug-in cars towards the compact end of the Chrylser range. Given the size of the market there and the general trend among U.S. consumers towards smaller, more fuel efficient cars, we’re suspecting doing so would be a good move.
While Fiat continues to have the 500e all-electric, we’d also expect other FCA brands to jump on the electric bandwagon, including Jeep and Doge. But since this hasn’t been confirmed by anyone at FCA, it’s pure speculation — and wishful thinking.
After all, who wouldn’t like the Doge Circuit EV — which debuted as a concept at the 2009 North American International Auto Show with a 200 kilowatt electric motor and 200 miles of range — to finally make it into production?
It’s important to note at this point however that we’ve been duped before by promises from Marchionne and Chrysler. Back in 2009, Chrysler promised to bring not one but two plug-in hybrids to market. While the RAM 1500 pickup and Chrysler Town & Country PHEVs did make it into the real world courtesy of a very limited, very exclusive, non-customer plug-in test-fleet, we’re still waiting.
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