September 14, 2007: Source – Edmunds Inside Line

Dodge Durango, Chrysler's first hybrid

Now owned by a private-equity firm that was well-paid to adopt it away from Daimler, Chrysler is trying to quash its reputation for dismal fuel economy. Just this month, it has lured hybrid advocate Jim Press away from Toyota and created a new division, ENVI, to develop hybrid and electric vehicles.

As reported by Edmunds Inside Line:

Chrysler says the ENVI initiative will research and build new products from the ground up that will be sold under the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep nameplates — rather than retrofit existing models as hybrids. A Chrysler spokesman said speed to market will be a priority.

Chrysler chief Thomas LaSorda called ENVI “a start-up with an entrepreneurial environment” rather than a pure research organization, and said the unit will be expected to “develop appropriate solutions quickly.”

Of the six top-selling automakers, Chrysler’s 2007 lineup has the worst average fuel economy. Its only hybrid offering in the works is the chunky 2009 Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen SUV. The two-mode hybrid system (developed in cooperation with GM and BMW and now available in the Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon) combines cylinder deactivation with electric motors for better mileage in both city and highway driving.

Chrysler has a long way to go. But moves under new management like hiring Press and opening Envi show that its first steps put it on a path that may lead to more choices for hybrid consumers. It wouldn’t be the first time a carmaker has turned its reputation around.

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