While still anticipating sending its first pure electric vehicle (EV) into showrooms by 2010, the survival plan of the smallest of America's Big 3 automakers left no doubt about the immediacy of its financial needs. According to Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli, the firm remains committed to bringing some 500,000 EVs to market by 2013, but only if it can secure $7 billion in federal loans by the end of the year. Since being purchased from Daimler in 2007 by Cerberus Capital Management, Chrysler has shed some 37,000 workers, closed two plants and cut its production capacity by 1.2 million units in an attempt to maintain viability. But according to Nardelli, the continuing precipitous slide in total industry sales -- and Chrysler's 41-percent drop-off in November was the worst suffered by any individual manufacturer -- has placed his firm's future in immediate and potentially lethal jeopardy. Chrysler also is banking on an additional $6 billion in previously approved supplemental loans from the Department of Energy under a separate program designed to promote the development of low-pollution, fuel-efficient vehicles.
Assuming Chrysler manages to secure the requisite financial lifeline, its electric dreamscape will be lightly populated for at least the next year. One of the plants due to close is home to the just-introduced and soon-to-depart Durango and Aspen Hybrids. The good news is that a two-mode hybrid version of the Dodge Ram pickup is still set for a 2010 intro, the same time as Chrysler's ENVI program delivers its first, but presently unspecified, pure electric offering. From the point until 2013, the automaker plans to roll out a variety of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV), City Electric Vehicles (CEV) and Range-extended Electric Vehicles (ReEV) in addition to adapting its zero-emissions technology to three more full-function battery electric vehicles (BEV). It also plans to make at least 50 percent of its traditional fleet flex-fuel capable. If all goes according to plan, Chrysler anticipates being able to start repaying its portion of the federal loan package starting in 2012.