Why has Chrysler been on the sidelines in the race for an, ahem, electrifying product lineup? The automaker is taking a more wait-and-see approach. As Bob Lee, Chrysler Group LLC's head of engine and electrified propulsion engineering, said during Center for Automotive Research's 2012 Management Briefing Seminars, ""We do believe in electrification, sparingly and for the right kinds of targeted applications. ... We're developing technology for commercialization, preparing for the shift when consumers start pulling them into the marketplace."
There are other corporate priorities, such as parent company Fiat weathering the financial cataclysm in Europe. There's also the challenge of marketing the small Fiat 500 in the U.S. market at a time when sporty Fiat cars are, for most, merely a memory. Chrysler will begin production of an electric Fiat 500 later this year and will roll it out in 2013.
While the company has been testing plug-in hybrid Chrysler Town & Country minivans with municipal fleets and is considering bringing in plug-in hybrid Ram pickups, compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles are more important to Chrysler Group, at least for now. Some of that comes from Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, who emphasizes CNG vehicles and high fuel efficiency internal combustion engine vehicles.
Chrysler brought its bi-fuel CNG Ram 2500 pickup to the U.S. market this summer. State and municipal governments are bringing a lot of CNG-powered vehicles into their fleets and are sure to buy a few of these trucks.