AUBURN HILLS, Michigan—Don’t expect to see a lot of electric vehicles from Fiat Chrysler anytime soon.
“In my opinion, electrification has been overblown by the media,” Chrysler powertrain chief Bob Lee said Tuesday at an investor conference. “With the exception of a relatively small group of early adopters, the market continues to be driven by regulatory requirements,” Lee added. This skepticism echoes past comments from company CEO Sergio Marchionne.
The automaker is working hard on complying with EPA greenhouse gas standards, however. A family of more efficient engines will debut in 2015. The engines will incorporate features like direct injection and twin turbocharging. They will pair with eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions, which have already filtered into Chrysler’s latest products. Chrysler is also betting on diesels, like the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.
“There’s a big bang-for-buck in diesels because of what consumers see in terms of miles per gallon,” Lee said. The drawback with diesels, Lee noted, is that they produce more carbon emissions than gas engines.
As government standards continue to tighten, Chrysler will invest in “more costly” technologies, including its first-ever hybrid vehicles. A plug-in Chrysler Town & Country, expected in 2016, promises 75 mpg. A full-size Chrysler crossover following in 2017 also will be offered as a plug-in hybrid. New mild-hybrid models are also planned. Finally, Chrysler says it will look for weight savings across its architectures, but it did not go into specifics. For example, it did not comment on whether the next Ram 1500, planned for calendar year 2017, will chase the 2015 Ford F-150 and incorporate aluminum in the body or chassis.
Despite all these efforts, Chrysler says it will continue to buy carbon credits, as it did in 2012, to comply with future regulations. Lee says this will “provide time to understand the complex business cases associated with new technologies.” (Several competitors have used carbon credits to meet the EPA’s greenhouse gas standards, but few, aside from smaller European manufacturers, actually ran out.)