Diesel-powered vehicles beat electric vehicles and hybrids – hands down – according to Bob Lee, head of global powertrain at Fiat and Chrysler. Lee made the comments recently at the CAR Management Briefing's Advanced Powertrain Forum in Traverse City, MI, and we assume for some they are fighting words.
Lee said that reducing CO2 is important to customers but they don't want to change their lifestyle or pay extra for the battery packs, electric motors and chargers. Not yet, anyways. And a shift like that might not happen for another decade, he said. And Fiat/Chrysler isn't interested in investing until the consumers are ready to pay for their plug-in cars. So, for now, Chrysler and Fiat will continue to invest in diesels and smaller, more powerful turbocharged engines. The new diesels compete head-to-head with hybrids for vehicles that deliver 20 percent to 30 percent fuel economy improvements. Lee thinks diesels offer better performance than hybrids, which gives them the real advantage.
We can see Lee's attitude in the product line-up for the two companies. The Fiat 500e is all that's currently being offered and there are no more electric vehicles or hybrids coming down the pipeline. The Fiat 500e is only available for sale in California at the same price as the non-electric 500, just $199 a month. What's interesting is that the automaker is telling buyers they do not have to pay any extra for the 500e, since the lease deal is so good (if you can get it) while also telling the press that customers need to pony up if EVs are going to succeed. Seems odd to us.
Chrysler has just rolled out a new 3.0L V6 turbo diesel version of the Grand Cherokee that gets 22 city and 30 highway in two-wheel drive. The Ram ProMaster cargo van with a diesel engine will arriving this summer. The Ram 1500 pickup will be out in the late fall, and will be available with the same diesel powertrain as the Grand Cherokee.