There's little doubt that Fiat Chrysler's future is ambitious. The multi-national company wants to sell many more cars than it does now, be more profitable, more nimble and more relevant. But when it comes to flashy, halo cars, they're sticking to Hemi power. Electric cars are notably absent from Fiat Chrysler's plans.
Sergio Marchionne's distaste for EVs has been out there for a while, but now there's confirmation that FCA isn't going to really jump on the electrification bandwagon. Which is probably fine from where we are in 2014. But their lack of commitment towards these cars is going to have to change eventually. Maybe when we're talking about the 10th anniversary of the Dodge Circuit EV that never was.
There, buried on page 23 of their powertrain presentation, is FCA's electrification strategy. It's pretty simple to follow:
Basically, the Town & Country plug-in will be the mass-market star of the show. The Fiat 500e, which I recently discovered is practically everywhere in Northern California, is there to please that state's legislators.
And here's the company's official stance:
Electrification has been over-blown by the media. With the exception of a relatively small group of early adopters, the market continues to be primarily driven by regulatory requirements.
Fiat Chrysler isn't alone in lying relatively low on the whole EV issue. Ford doesn't appear to be going Nissan Leaf-chasing. But then they also have a relatively successful lineup of hybrids and plug-ins. FCA doesn't have that yet.
The "overblown" comment seems more directed at Tesla and perhaps the Chevy Volt, both of which have received an enormous amount of attention. But tone sounds behind the times, and actually out of step with an increasing amount of customers.
Just last week, I visited with some relatives whose current fleet of cars includes a Honda Odyssey, Chevy Suburban and BMW Z3 – all about 15 years old. After several questions like, "What do you think about the Volt?" and "What electric car would you buy?" I gathered their next new car purchase isn't going to be a normal gas engine. People keep cars for much longer than they used to. They want their cars to be as relevant for as long as possible, too. And if they're not enamored with manual transmissions and turbo boost, plug-ins and other electrics will continue to generate interest.
Fiat Chrysler is really banking on small gasoline engines to make it more competitive in the fuel efficiency race. That's a smart move, and it's worked for other automakers. And right now they have a pressing need to boost the economy of volume sellers.
But I hope the tone is a more open to discussing powertrains that aren't gas engines the next time they do a five-year plan.
Photos: Getty Images, Fiat Chrysler