Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Chrysler to launch plug-in hybrid electric minivan in 2016

The news just keeps on rolling from Auburn Hills today, as Fiat Chrysler continues to detail its five-year growth plan. This time round, we're talking about Chrysler.
Chrysler is set to launch a plug-in hybrid minivan capable of returning 75MPGe. The new car will come in the form of a new Town & Country model on sale in 2016.
The MPV will compete with cars such as the Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, offering enough space for families yet forgoing the heavy fuel bills these larger vehicles incur. Ford’s plug-in hybrid is currently rated at at 100MPGe, although that falls to 43mpg once charge from the battery is depleted.
Naturally, then, Chrysler will need some new product to hit that goal. Leading the charge will be a "thoroughly refreshed" 300 sedan, which we can expect to see later this year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Considering the 300's 2011 arrival, this fits in nicely with the average automotive life cycle.
Following the 300's refresh, 2016 will see the arrival of the Chrysler 100, a C-segment offering that will challenge the likes of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze. The 100 may be the most important vehicle in the Chrysler brand's five-year plan, as it will mark its entry into one of the hottest segments in the auto industry.
Five years ago, then-new Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and a new executive team held a marathon day-long presentation session on the company's future, laying out a product plan in conjunction with Fiat following its government-backed restructuring.
Today, what is now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is doing it again-and the company has confirmed it will offer at least two plug-in hybrid electric models starting in 2016.
Plug-in minivan, big crossover
Marchionne had said in 2011 that Chrysler would offer a Chrysler 300 Hybrid full-size sedan (in 2013) and a hybrid minivan to follow the same year, both conventional hybrids.
Neither vehicle appeared, but those were hardly the only changes to the five-year product plan that had been announced in 2009.
Instead, Chrysler will now offer a plug-in hybrid version of an all-new minivan during 2016, and a full-sized crossover in 2017 that also has a plug-in hybrid option.
The plug-in hybrid minivan will get "75 mpg," said Chrysler president and CEO Al Gardner--presumably referring to its MPGe rating goal for operation in fully electric mode.
(MPGe is an EPA efficiency rating that measures the distance that can be covered under electric power on the same amount of energy as contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)
A plug-in hybrid minivan in 2016 could well be the very first minivan with a plug sold in North America--though several plug-in hybrid crossovers are on their way from Mitsubishi, Range Rover, and Volvo among others.
To date, the only plug-in electric car Chrysler sells is the low-volume Fiat 500e compliance car, whose sales it refuses to release.
Fiat Chrysler will provide more technical specifications on its powertrains and hybrid-electric systems this afternoon.