Chrysler's new Italian management is revising the company's electric vehicle strategy, announcing Monday that it will build a fully electric Fiat 500 minicar to sell in the U.S. in 2012.
But they'll be a minimum of two years behind other major automakers including Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Co., and Ford Motor Co., all of which plan to have rechargeable electric vehicles on sale later this year.
Engineers at Chrysler's Auburn Hills, Mich., technical center are still developing the 500's electric battery and motor system, and they're shooting to get more than 100 miles on a single charge from a home outlet.
Chrysler said the U.S. would be the first market for the electric 500, and it would announce timing for other markets closer to the launch date. Pricing was not announced.
The strategy is far different from Chrysler's former owners, who in 2008 said they were working on an electric Jeep, Chrysler minivan and a Dodge sports car, with one of them to go on sale in 2010.
The sports car was completely electric and based on a Lotus frame, and the Jeep and Chrysler vehicles were similar to GM's Chevrolet Volt, which the company says can go 40 miles on battery power before a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate power for the car.
Chrysler said Monday it will take another two years to clear technology hurdles with the electric 500's battery and motor. The other vehicles that Chrysler announced before its stay in bankruptcy protection are still under study and also could still be built, a spokesman said.
Chrysler announced earlier this year that it will make the 500 with an internal combustion engine in Mexico for U.S. sales starting in December. The 500 will be sold at selected metro-market dealers.
The company's move to power the 500 with electricity is behind Nissan, which will take orders next month for the Leaf all-electric car, with deliveries starting in December. GM's Volt also is due out in December, While Ford plans to sell an electric version of its Transit Connect small commercial van in the second half of the year. It also plans an all-electric Focus compact in 2011.
Italy's Fiat Group SpA took over management of Chrysler after it emerged from bankruptcy protection last year and is in the process of revamping its poor-selling lineup of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.
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