Will Fiat help Chrysler go green?

Some commenters suggested my earlier post, “Chrysler to electrify entire product line!” should have been filed under “humor.” How was the company going to survive the current collapse of the auto industry, let alone find the money to invest in green cars?

But now the NYT reports:

The Italian automaker Fiat agreed on Tuesday to take a 35 percent stake in the struggling American auto company Chrysler, which was forced last month to seek a federal bailout amid fears it might not survive.

And, as the article notes, this creates a real eco-opportunity for Chrysler:

The agreement will allow Chrysler to use Fiat’s technology and vehicle platforms to build more fuel-efficient, small and midsize cars at its factories and sell them in North America. Fiat will give Chrysler access to distribution networks in other parts of the world, particularly Europe. The companies said they expected “substantial cost savings opportunities” but did not specify an amount….

“The agreement will offer both companies opportunities to gain access to most relevant automotive markets,” Mr. Marchionne [Fiat CEO] said, “with innovative and environmentally friendly product offering, a field in which Fiat is a recognized world leader while benefiting from additional cost synergies.”

… “This transaction will enable Chrysler to offer a broader competitive line-up of vehicles for our dealers and customers that meet emissions and fuel efficiency standards, while adhering to conditions of the government loan,” Chrysler’s chairman, Robert L. Nardelli, said in the statement.

As for Chrysler’s plan to go electric, I was not the only one suckered inspired by them. Consider L. A. Times car columnist Dan Neil, who wrote in mid-January, “The company has a long history of pulling itself out of deep trouble. This time, it’s counting on electric cars to save it”:

The public will get a good look at Chrysler’s electric-car plans today when it reveals two new “production-intent” vehicles at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show: a plug-in hybrid version of the Jeep Patriot compact utility, and a pure electric vehicle, called the Circuit, based on the British sports car Lotus Europa.

These join three ENVI prototypes unveiled last year: a plug-in hybrid Chrysler minivan and Jeep Wrangler, and another electrified Lotus, similar to the Tesla Roadster. Chrysler has committed to bringing at least one advanced electric vehicle to the market next year.

“These are not concept vehicles,” says Quigley. “We can’t afford that anymore. These are intended for production.”

Take your best shots, ye of little faith!

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6 Responses to Will Fiat help Chrysler go green?

  1. In fact, Fiat currently holds the low-carbon crown among the world’s major automakers, and could easily meet the watered-down 2015 European emissions standards by 2012.

    This is good news for Chrysler, and for consumers who want to buy highly-efficient cars. (But, truth to tell, I’m not sure if Fiats are well built these days… But I like the look of the Alfa Romeo MiTo… The cheaper one emits just 138 g of CO2 per km, the diesel is rated at 126 gm).

  2. Greg N says:

    138 g/km is poor for a car of that size. 126 g/km for a diesel is also poor.

    Plenty of European diesels at

  3. Greg N says:

    … better ratings than that. Fiat is among the pack, nothing special.

  4. charlie says:

    I don’t see much green in Fiat-Chrysler, except for what the taxpayer is paying for.

    Fiat cars aren’t green — they are just small and usually diesels. Great to have to come to the US, but not a significant improvement. Chrysler is talking a big game about the electrics, but I think they are just building giant golf carts (they are the largest golf-cart company in the world). Little evidence that any of this is real.

  5. Greg…

    With all due respect, Clean Transportation is an industry that I report on every day… And I know that JATO Dynamics named Fiat’s fleet the most efficient among European automakers for 2008 (and second for 2007, if memory serves). The fleet average for Fiat is 137.3 g per CO2… which roughly equates to 55+ mpg. The hybrid Fiat 500 is expected to get 83 mpg, while emitting just 90 g of CO2. Fiat is also developing an 80 hp 2-cylinder engine (MultiAir) that achieves 69 g CO2 per km, but it’s two or three years away).

    Now consider that US automakers are scared sh*tless by the thought of meeting California’s proposed fuel efficiency standards of 42 mpg by 2020, and I think you can see what Fiat offers an American automaker. (FYI, PSA Peugeot-Citroen was rated at 142 g, and Renault at 146.4).

    Furthermore auto market analyst T&E also recently analyzed the preparedness of European automakers to meeting the proposed 2012 emission standards (before they were watered down dramatically) and found that Fiat, Renault, and Peugeot Citroen were the efficiency leaders (they needed to improve by less than 13 percent). Compare that to companies like Nissan and Mazda that needed to make a 22 percent improvement (again, if memory serves).

    There is a rumor that Fiat is planning to make mild hybrids (stop-start capability) standard across their line by 2011, their Iveco trucks have hybrid-diesel and LNG options, and they’re partnering with BMW to develop a small-car chassis (The same chassis used in the Mini Cooper).

    So they ARE bringing something to the table. Is it enough to save Chrysler? Beats me. But I think the clean transportation industry considers it a good thing.

    Charlie… small cars are green cars. For every 10 percent reduction in weight, you improve fuel economy by 4 percent… or 7 percent is the company uses a smaller engine in the lighter car (In other words, a 7 percent improvement in fiel economy, but 0-60 times remain the same).

  6. Greg N says:

    Stop-start capability is now classed as “mild hybrid”?

    Surely any car can have stop-start, but a hybrid has to have 2 engines?

    It’s great that Fiat have a genuine hybrid 500 on the way – we need the small cars to be hybrids along with the Prius sizes. But not till 2011? That’s well behind the Honda Jazz, as one example.