Is Chrysler Coming Back from the Dead?

Chrysler has had so little to offer the market that some days we thought the company had rolled over and died. Now there is news that the Fiat 500 Electric will definitely come to these shores. And there is a new engine for many Chrysler vehicles. And a government initiative is supporting the Ram Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.

We told you about the Fiat 500 Electric when it appeared at the Detroit Show in concept form. Now the company commits to producing the car for the U.S. market, coming in 2012, says Chrysler. The gas-powered 500 will arrive late this year. All we know now is that the production electric will have a lithium-ion battery pack and a “high power electric powertrain module,” according to the press release. Well, we’d rather have the Abarth, but we’ll take this. It will be competing against cars like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric.

The new DOHC engine looks very promising for the company and its cars.

The all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 will replace seven current V-6 engines across the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram Truck brands, and it carries the promise of more than 25-percent better fuel economy than the engines it replaces. The Pentastar V-6 will be offered in various configurations, with Fiat-shared technologies such as Multiair, direct injection, and turbocharging.

This new V6 will be made at the revamped Chrysler engine factory in Trenton, Michigan—up to a capacity of 400,000 engines a year. The company is especially proud that the facility just received a special certification for its green design.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Energy gave Chrysler a $48 million grant to promote its Ram Plug-In Hybrid Electric (HE) truck, creating 140 test vehicles that will go to “utility companies, government agencies and universities,” says Leftlane. The company reports that the funds will help develop a 5.7-liter Hemi-powered Ram HE that can travel up to 20 miles on a charge.

Chrysler is dropping the Ram Hybrid it was developing to compete with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Hybrids, neither of which drew much interest from truck buyers.

Hybrids in trucks are a tough sell to the public, at least at this juncture. Will government help help? Will plug-in versions fare any better?

—jgoods

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2 Comments

  1. Randy, your last paragraph is probably the most intelligent thing that I’ve read here in quite a while. Living here in a former steel town, I’ve witnessed first hand your economics lesson on manufacturing, the middle class, and the service industry. Well said, sir. I salute you!!

  2. I’ve been able to spend some track time in the Abarth 500, which is great fun to drive and even a bit campy with the checkerboard roof. Hopefully the electric will be able to maintain the tight, snappy handling. What I would also like to see (and a lot more likely to buy) is a clean Diesel version of the 500, which should be able to hit 50 or more mpg, and the Diesel low end torque would probably make it a hot autocross car.

    That Pentastar V6 is a great thing for Chrysler, and for our undeclared disaster area, SE Michigan. As this country continues to ship manufacturing jobs overseas and shift to a “service” economy, we are learning that “service” means a permanent end to the middle class. The irony is that we are now subsidizing manufacturing jobs after many years of subsidizing the destruction of the same jobs. As the Chinese have learned, manufacturing is the most powerful wealth creator of all, and that wealth turns “service” economies into “subservient” economies.

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