Chrysler Restructures its Electric Vehicle Efforts

By KBB.com Editors on November 16, 2009 12:18 PM

The initial takeaway from Chrysler's recent five-year planning update had many critics contending that parent company Fiat had virtually scrapped its promising electric vehicle program. A closer review of the presentation shows that while a structural revision has indeed taken place, it's more like a new beginning than any end-of-the-world scenario. While the high-profile ENVI -- for environmental -- acronym may have been retired, a Chrysler spokesman confirmed to KBB.com that all of the personnel in the organization have been absorbed into the normal vehicle development operation and now carry EV-related responsibilities for either powertrain or platform design, depending on their specific area of expertise. Equally important, Lou Rhodes, who had headed up ENVI, has been given oversight responsibilities for the total electric vehicle operation of both Fiat and Chrysler. In fact, the Chrysler has been officially designated as the worldwide center of competence for hybrids and electrification for both the Fiat Group and the Chrysler Group.

Fiat boss and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne admits that the corporate EV strategy is still being finalized and believes that EV volume numbers are destined to remain fairly modest until the underlying issues of battery technology and infrastructure capabilities can be more definitively resolved. However, he's committed to seeing new Chrysler product in the pipeline and on the road, even if they're not exactly the five that ENVI had previously been touting. The timeline presented will have Chrysler follow up a two-mode 2011 Ram Hybrid pickup model with plug-in versions of that vehicle and a minivan that will be created as part of a test fleet subsidized by the Department of Energy. Chrysler's first pure electric offering will be a commercial light-duty van due in the 2011-2012 time window and very likely be based on the existing Fiat Doblo shown here. Without offering many specifics, Paolo Ferraro, head of Chrysler's overall powertrain development, indicated that the automaker will continue its efforts toward perfecting and implementing both its plug-in hybrid and pure battery electric technologies. He also stated that Chrysler will continue looking for ways to partner with the government and various suppliers to effectively manage costs and drive consumer demand for EVs in the years ahead.

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