Marchionne Believes Too Many Electric Cars Could Endanger The Planet


Sergio Marchionne, the head honcho at Fiat Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari, is a man who has his finger on the pulse of the automotive industry. So you would think he would know a thing or two. But during remarks to the press while receiving an honorary degree from the University of Trento last week, he made it clear he knows almost nothing.

Marchionne, Barra and Fields oppose fuel economy standards
Sergio Marchionne with GM CEO Mary Barra and former Ford CEO Mark Fields

Echoing sentiments often expressed by acolytes of the Koch Brothers, Il Patrón Marchionne intoned, “It was always make-believe that electric cars save anything like the amount of CO2 claimed for them. Before we assume electric vehicles are the ultimate answer, we need to consider cradle-to-grave lifecycle.”

Governments around the world — including India, China, France, the UK, and Germany — are making noises about banning cars with internal combustion engines starting as early as 2030. Recently, top executives at Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Honda have all said their companies would transition to cars with electric motors within the next 15 years or so.

But Marchionne believes that going too far too fast will only make carbon dioxide pollution worse, putting the world in greater danger instead of less. He says governments should stop forcing electric cars on people.

His primary objection is that the electricity needed to recharge all those electric cars today comes from coal fired generating plants that spew copious quantities of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Therefore, more electric cars will inevitably lead to more emissions, not less. Marchionne also used the occasion to reiterate his claim that Fiat loses up to $20,000 on each 500e it sells.

The world would be better off if vehicles were powered by natural gas, conveniently forgetting to mention that natural gas production causes massive amounts of methane emissions — particularly if fracking is involved — and that methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Marchionne is not wrong to suggest that electricity made from burning coal leads to high carbon emissions. That part is true. But he completely overlooks the fact that the world is rapidly switching to renewables like wind and solar and closing coal fired generating stations in record numbers, led by China which is installing massive solar and wind farms throughout the country.

The world is changing and Marchionne is standing in the middle of the road trying his hardest to hold back progress. Legacy automakers are in danger of getting left behind in the dust or possibly going out of business entirely if they don’t adapt to the new realities.

One can easily imagine Marchionne and former Ford boss Mark Fields rocking on the front porch of the Home For Aged Auto Executives one day, sipping an Old Fashion, and wondering to themselves, “What the hell happened?”

You can watch Marchionne’s remarks in full on Bloomberg by following this link.

Source: Forbes


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Mark Turner

    Comical Sergio.

  • WebUserAtLarge

    Looks like there is more then one moron in a leadership position in this world…

  • Epicurus

    It’s extraordinary how stupid executives at giant multi-national corporations can be. He is one among many. I once worked at a giant oil company, and I saw several examples of the dullest people being promoted. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. The Board of Directors should jettison this dolt right now. If they don’t, one wonders about the board.

    It’s apparent which worldwide auto manufacturer won’t make it through the EV transition, isn’t it?

    • Vijay Kamat

      That dolt is the spokesperson on behalf of the BOARD.

  • Eco Logical

    Did anyone check Marchionne for (puppet) strings?

  • trackdaze

    Sounds like someone is skinny dipping whilst the tide goes out on internal combustion.

  • kevin mccune

    Some of the stupidest dang arguments on both sides, carbon dioxide is a “trace gas” if and when it doubles it will still be 1/8 of the world recorded or calculated all time carbon dioxide high during the Cambrian period( when all the myriad life forms exploded onto the scene( see Cambrian explosion).I am not saying our CO2 experiment is a good thing , as of right now , there just isn’t a real good argument for automobiles contributing to global warming on a large scale, they contribute some but not nearly as much as somebody like Al would have you believe( yet He sees fit to gadabout the world in a fuel thirsty jet aircraft and lives in a huge mansion) IMO what we should really worry about is the destruction of the tropical rain forests and the depletion of crude oil stocks for transportation , rather then a feedstock for industrial uses and Hell no I do not believe in that half baked theory of abiotic oil, most supporters of this hypothesis don’t even know Dr Golds reasoning for this( the first hyper deep bore hole was bone dry by the way). Electric cars are great ,I do not believe they will save the environment( especially if the batteries are charged with fossil fuel powered generators ), Electric transportation has many merits of its own and does not really need the environmental ruse for justification. We will continue to need fossil fueled machines for our great endeavors, electric vehicles will be great for short and moderate length trips and really help the air quality in major metropolitan areas . So there is the good , the bad, the ugly in any Human endeavor, love what you will. Allow me to state “Leroys Law”
    ” Any time you do anything that gives you pleasure or makes life easier , will have, a detrimental effect on someone else’s happiness or livelihood”
    So in summation, I believe the poor of the Earth are paying for our prosperity, its no longer a question of “got mine , screw yours” hence the problems of the rain forests and destruction of the Earths surface for fossil fuel and ore bodies, maybe we need to scale back the production of people( all people deserve a good quality of life) and realize when all have parity, then perhaps the earth will not sustain everybody at this level.Before the naysayers jump down my throat I wish some Folks to tour waste treatment plants and landfills and visit such communal treasures as Mt.Trashmore in Eastern VA, one thing we are running out of quickly is fresh water . along with our coastal fisheries we are going a long way toward destroying and polluting these great treasures. In closing I will say as the old curse went “we are living in interesting times” one group alone will not solve it

  • mb

    O, I think he knows very well but he has two strong reasons why he is trying to demonize EV-s with old refuted arguments. First (business) FIAT can’t get a good EV in time to catch up with the competition. There is no way he can build a battery factory around Maranello and he’s way behind in line with the competition. Second (emotional) he wants the streets of Italy filled with Ferrari V8 and V12 engine sounds and not with quietly zooming EV-s. He has nightmares about Model S-s beating his prancing horses…


    Mr Marchionne is brianless If you build a Fiat Ev that cost you 20,000 dollars in the hole for every one you make, then you need to be out of business, Ev is the future now and on. Coal will be gone. Wake up.

  • DHZ

    If the governments are going to mandate electric cars, they need to mandate the green energy generation to match the vehicles. Or Sergio is correct. Do not expect that the utility companies will switch all that fast.

    • strangedays

      add to that who is going to pay for it all?
      Not to mention green energy generation not efficient and nearly impossible on such a grand scale. I suppose the US could theoretically repave all the streets and freeways across the country with solar panels… but who foots the bill. Solar is only about 20% efficient.

      • earl colby pottinger

        28% Last year, 32% this year. Plus you forgot wind energy, even nuclear – you may worry about where to store the waste but it does not dump garbage into the air.

        • Tim Jonson

          Oh cut it out, 32% efficient photocells are not cost effective.

          • earl colby pottinger

            Today, but quote panels as only being 20% is yesterday standard.

            I bought grade ‘B’ panels and yet they are about 23%. I have not finish testing them because I have been in the hospital but that is what I was told when I got them.

  • Hey Steve, why even bother to spread this guy’s asinine remarks around?

  • Ed

    Let’s don’t forget that while VW is deservedly absorbing the most flak for cheating on emissions, Sergio’s company was right there, cheating like crazy to make its Diesels pass emission tests.

  • James Rowland

    In other words: Fiat is bad at making EVs, so its CEO is trying to characterise them as though they’ll be powered entirely by the worst available method of electricity production, in a (futile) attempt to slow the shift in public understanding.

    Remember to stock up on popcorn and watch out for the rivers of tears that’ll soon be flowing from 25 St James’s Street.

    • Vijay Kamat

      Sergio, public is more informed than you are.

      Automobile companies are becoming energy companies ask Renault of France, Nissan of Japan.

  • Terry

    Why do pro internal combustion people always talk about cradle-to-grave lifecycle for electric cars, when that was never talked about when there was just internal combustion engine cars? Hmmm…

  • Time to add FCA to the watch list of incumbents (like Sears, Blockbuster, Waldenbooks, Kodak) to be disrupted into oblivion.

  • Jim Smith

    China is still opening massive amounts of new coal plants and will continue through 2020. When was the last new coal plant opened in the USA?

  • Vijay Kamat

    Mr. Marchionne, you should retire and sit beside Pope preaching the world.

  • Epicurus

    His stupidity qualifies him for an appointment in the Trump administration.