What a difference a year makes. Just before Chrysler went bankrupt, I remember them rolling all of these could-be electric vehicles out. After all, green was in, and Chrysler needed to make itself look viable in the eyes of their savior, the Federal Government. So they gave us an electric Wrangler, a hybrid aspen, and the Dodge Circuit, a Lotus-based EV sports car. Dodge was so serious, they even made an EV division called ENVI to exclusively work on electric vehicles.
Enter 2010. ENVI is dead, all of Chrysler’s hybrids have been swept under the rug, and their plans for electric vehicles canceled. Bailout money well spent?
This piece in Automotive News (subs. req’d) gets into the nitty gritty, but the basic idea is that as soon as Fiat joined forced with Chrysler, all those grand electric ideas went out the window. No more Ram two-mode hybrid, and that goes double for the Aspen and Durango. The Dodge Circuit is nowhere to be seen either. Instead, Fiat is working to “Europeanize” Chrysler with small cars and small engines. Will it work?
I’ve already heard that Fiat is looking to downplay the Hemi engine, arguably the best engine in Chrysler’s lineup (seriously, everything else is garbage). Ok, I can understand toning down the V8’s. Ford is doing it with its EcoBoost engines, as are many other manufacturers. Fiat is bringing its famous 500 over to America, perhaps also its MultiAir and FIRE engines. But electric vehicles? Forget about it. Fiat is a leader in natural gas, but the only electric vehicle they have planned is a Fiat 500.
So is this a good idea, or a bad one? Chrysler doesn’t have much capital to be throwing at electric vehicle technologies, which cost a pretty penny to test and develop. On the same token, at a time when many manufacturers are working on hybrids and pure electrics, Chrysler could be left out in the cold as the country moves away from gasoline. On the same token, if they make substantial improvements in gas mileage while keeping prices low, they might mop up in a market eager for EV’s, but also bargains. So is Chrysler making a mistake by dropping its EV program, or is it a good idea?
Source: Automotive News | Image: Chrysler
Chris DeMorro is a car enthusiast, blogger, and all-around crazy man who is as passionate about hybrids as he is about Hemis. You can follow his constant misadventures at Three Months In A Mustang.