Chrysler's Trio of Electric Vehicles - Vile Gossip

Our busy minds, abhorring a vacuum, begin to spin. Here are some of our more plausible scenarios:

  • Owning Chrysler lock, stock, and smoking mirrors would allow Cerberus to sell any or all of the company without Daimler getting in the way. The sword of Damocles is about to drop.
  • Nissan could get involved in a relationship, but CEO Carlos Ghosn is probably too smart for that.
  • Or maybe the Chinese. Yes. Warren Buffet just bought ten percent of the Chinese car company BYD, the world's largest producer of lithium-ion batteries for cell phones. Its young chairman and all of his top guys are electrical engineers.
  • Or perhaps, even as you read this, old Asian-auto-industry hand Phil Murtaugh is brokering a controlling or equity interest in Chrysler to Chinese automotive giant SAIC.

You see what happens to our active imaginations when we have too much of too little information.

But there is information; we just had to dig for it. Analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics, always the voice of reason and blessed with a Cray computer of a memory bank, reminded us that Larry Oswald, the engineer behind GM's 1991 HX3 hybrid concept car and veteran of the EV1 program, left for Chrysler in the mid-1990s after twenty-six years with GM. At Chrysler, he and his team did a lot of behind-the-scenes, off-site electric-vehicle research. For the past nine years, he was CEO of DaimlerChrysler's Global Electric Motorcars, until his recent retirement.

That's a lot more electric-vehicle expertise and experience backing the release of these three vehicles than Chrysler made it sound when it said that its in-house organization ENVI (as in ENVIronmental) "was created just over one year ago with the strategic intent to develop electric-drive vehicles quickly." You can see how misunderstandings happen. The "overnight" surprise had some real sweat equity. That and a potential breakthrough from a battery supplier could put Chrysler on track to beat the Volt out of the gate.

Of course, they'll both have to prove it to us come 2010.

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