A few years ago, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the company will lose $10,000 on every Fiat 500E EV it makes. Turns out he was wrong…by about 40%. According to Marchionne, Fiat loses some $14,000 on every electric car it loses. His solution? Asking people not to buy it.
But don’t feel bad for Marchionne or his massive corporation, because they have had ample time to invest and develop EVs. Remember the Chrysler ENVI program? Killed shortly after the Fiat takeover. That was about five years ago. Imagine where their EV program might be today if they had just stuck with it?
Naturally, Marchionne blamed everyone but himself and his company for their failure to make money on EVs. According to the FCA boss, “…nobody out there that makes money on the electrification of vehicles, with the exception of Tesla, which only makes electric cars and sells them at a rather inordinate price.”
While I don’t know how true that statement is, it does sound like a load of bullshit to me, especially coming from the parent company of Ferrari and Maserati. Meanwhile, other automakers. including the two biggest EV makers, GM and Nissan, have slashed the cost of their EVs by at least $5,000, which all start in the same price range as the Fiat 500E. Are they just increasing their losses? Unlikely. Instead it sounds like Sergio was forced to make a car he didn’t want to, and did the worst job possible, expecting people never to buy it.
For Marchionne though, the Fiat 500E is a compliance car, and nothing more, and there are no plans to build anymore than necessary to meet CARB regulations in California. Unfortunately for him, demand of the electric Fiat is reportedly reaching a fever pitch. By most accounts, the Fiat 500E is an excellent vehicle that’s fun to drive, and with access to a conventional version of the 500 included in the lease price drawing customers into dealerships…only to have them leave when they encounter a months-long waiting list.
Instead of redoubling its efforts on EVs, which are proving more popular than predicted, Fiat is committing to diesels, and plans to offer a plug-in hybrid minivan capable of around 75 MPG. While I think both technologies have their place, Fiat-Chrysler is only putting itself further behind the curve by not developing a profitable EV of its own.