Chrysler Plans Return to Hybrids in 2013
Chrysler is working on a hybrid version of the Chrysler 300 sedan, according to a report in Automotive News. “We will offer a hybrid variant of the 300 equipped with an eight-speed automatic in 2013,” CEO Sergio Marchionne said last week at the Detroit auto show.
The most fuel efficient of the current Chrysler 300 models, equipped with 2.7-liter 178-horsepower V6 engine, provides 18 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. Rising fuel economy mandates will require automakers to deploy gas-electric hybrid technology on a broad range of vehicles—simultaneously pushing to higher levels of efficiency with new models and mitigating penalties associated with gas-guzzling vehicles.
In 2008, the company discontinued the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen full-sized hybrids just two months after both vehicles began full-scale production. A company press release stated, “In response to the continuing global economic slowdown and auto industry contraction, as well as the market’s continuing movement toward smaller vehicles, Chrysler is announcing…the pull-ahead of the closure of the Newark, Del. Assembly Plant.” On Dec. 31, 2008, the plants where both the hybrid and non-hybrid versions of these two models were built was shut down.
At the time, Chrysler spokeswoman, Mary Beth Halprin, said, “More hybrids are coming in the future,” referring to long-established plans (at that time) for Chrysler to produce a hybrid gas-electric version of the Dodge Ram pickup. The company reiterated its commitment to the Ram Hybrid in early 2009—only to abandoned the project in March 2010. Three months later, the company announced plans for a small test fleet of Dodge Ram plug-in hybrid pickups—backed by a $48 million Department of Energy grant.
After years of developing gas-electric technology, Chrysler certainly has access to the hardware and other systems necessary to produce hybrids. Yet, Chrysler is perhaps the furthest behind on the electrification of the vehicle. Marchionne’s statement suggests the company is prepared to get back on track. Hybrids could play an important role in meeting Chrysler’s fuel efficiency goals. At the 2010 Automotive News Detroit Green Car Conference last week, Paulo Ferrero, Chrysler’s senior vice president for powertrain, targeted a 25 percent overall fleet average fuel economy improvement for Chrysler’s fleet by 2014.