Chrysler Will Start Selling Natural-Gas Vehicles in U.S. Market by 2017

Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S. automaker operated by Fiat SpA (F), plans to start selling compressed natural gas-powered vehicles by 2017.

“The technology is very actively being worked on,” Bob Lee, Chrysler’s vice president for engine and electrified propulsion systems, said yesterday in an interview in Detroit.

Fiat, which owns 30 percent of Chrysler and plans to increase the holding to 51 percent, has engines using compressed natural gas in Europe. Chrysler executives have explored bringing that Fiat technology to the U.S.

“It’s a good way for some diversity in the market in terms of fuel use,” Lee said at the SAE 2011 World Congress, an automotive engineering convention in Detroit.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of both Chrysler and Fiat, has said natural-gas engines are an attractive way to cut emissions because they’re cheaper than competing technologies.

Chrysler is looking at the possibility of adding compressed natural gas-powered engines to its Ram brand, Fred Diaz, head of the truck unit, said in February.

“I’m eager and very interested to see what we can do with CNG in our truck applications,” Diaz said.

Honda Motor Co. is the only automaker selling cars with compressed natural gas engines to retail customers in the U.S. General Motors Co. (GM) began selling vehicles with natural-gas engines to U.S. fleet buyers last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Southfield, Michigan at thiggins21@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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