Chrysler Sees ‘Targeted’ Electrification, Executive Says

Chrysler Group LLC, the automaker controlled by Fiat SpA, plans to make some electric versions of its vehicles, said Bob Lee, vice president and head of engine and electrified propulsion engineering.

“We do believe in electrification, sparingly and for the right kinds of targeted applications,” Lee said today at a Center for Automotive Research conference in Acme, Michigan. “We’re developing technology for commercialization, preparing for the shift when consumers start pulling them into the marketplace.”

Chrysler has trailed competitors such as General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. in introducing hybrid and electric vehicles. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler and Fiat, has emphasized opportunities for boosting the efficiency of traditional gasoline engines as well as vehicles powered by compressed natural gas.

Chrysler has said it intends to begin production of an electric Fiat 500 small car later this year and start selling that model in 2013. The company also has delivered plug-in hybrid-electric Chrysler Town & Country minivans to municipalities in California, Arizona, North Carolina and Michigan, and is evaluating a fleet of plug-in hybrid Ram pickups.

Separately, LMC Automotive lowered its 2012 estimate for U.S. light vehicle sales to 14.3 million from 14.5 million, according to a statement that the researcher released at the conference. LMC cited “higher economic-driven risk” for its revisions, which also included cutting its 2013 sales estimate to 15 million from 15.2 million.

“The growth rate for the remainder of the year is no longer expected to be as strong, as the economy cools,” Jeff Schuster, Troy, Michigan-based senior vice president of forecasting for LMC, said in the statement. “We do expect the North American market to be able to ride out the potential storm, albeit at a lower level.”

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