CHELSEA, MI –is focusing on hybrid-electric powertrains to meet tough new fuel-economy standards, and is placing a big bet on turbocharging combined with gasoline direct injection.
Reflecting its ties with Europe-based, appears to be taking yet another route that focuses less on electrification and more heavily on light-duty diesels and compressed natural gas.
and CEO Sergio Marchionne says the U.S. auto maker is struggling to develop a product portfolio and technology solutions that will allow it to meet 2016 and 2025 corporate average fuel economy targets, and he is not anticipating a midterm review built into the newly finalized regulations will offer any relief down the road.
“No one is thinking there will be a revision of the standards,” Marchionne tells reporters test-driving the new Dodge Dart here at the auto maker’s proving grounds in rural Michigan.
With 2016 “just around the corner” and 2025 not far away given the auto industry’s long product-development lead times, “there are big choices to be made,” Marchionne says.
He makes it clear Chrysler, which is starting to share platforms and powertrains with Fiat, wants to leverage the European auto maker’s strengths in diesels and CNG-powered vehicles.
Marchionne especially is critical of the new CAFE rules as they focus on vehicle electrification. Battery- electric vehicles are guaranteed money losers for auto makers, he says, adding the new Fiat 500 EV, which will go on sale in the U.S. by the end of the year, is an “economic lemon.”
Chrysler’s CEO also says the growing trend of using small turbocharged engines to replace larger V-6s and V-8s, a strategy being heavily embraced by the auto industry, cannot be the only solution.
Marchionne says Chrysler is adding a number of turbocharged engines to its lineup, but he says the concept does not work if the turbo is engaged too often, such as when towing a heavy load. At that point, he says fuel consumption skyrockets.
Fuel-efficient towing remains a strong point of diesels, and Marchionne says he still is optimistic about the potential of light-duty diesels in the U.S. despite significant emissions challenges. Speaking to a small group of reporters on the sidelines following a roundtable discussion, Marchionne also is enthusiastic about the potential of CNG-powered vehicles in the U.S.
Chrysler’s Ram 2500 CNG pickup is on sale now.
He says the huge supplies of low-cost natural gas available in the U.S., coupled with home fueling stations linked to natural-gas lines, could make CNG a very attractive alternative fuel to consumers.
Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the few revisions to the newly finalized CAFE rules are extra credits for sellers of CNG-powered vehicles.