Fiat Chrysler Said to Reveal Full Electric Vehicle at CES

  • Carmaker responds to regulatory pressure with electric cars
  • Fiat plans electric Maserati sports car to compete with Tesla

A Fiat Chrysler 2017 Chrysler Pacifica vehicle is unveiled during the 2016 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, on Jan. 11, 2016.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will reveal a fully electric vehicle based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan at CES in Las Vegas next month as the carmaker moves to get in step with the industry’s shift toward electric vehicles.

The Italian-American carmaker will show the model at CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show and the world’s largest technology convention, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. FCA is also working on an electric Maserati sports car, which aims to compete with Tesla models, the people said. Fiat Chrysler declined to comment.

The two models mark a shift in strategy for Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who has been reluctant to invest in electric cars because he thinks they won’t be profitable for at least several years. Carmakers are being pushed in multiple markets to develop electric cars to meet stricter emissions rules. Marchionne said in June that he doesn’t see electrification as the “solution for all of man’s ills,” but added that he wants to experiment more with electric drive.

FCA, which was the first major automaker to strike a deal with Alphabet Inc.’s Google to develop self-driving vehicles, has favored cooperating with tech giants to navigate the potentially profound changes in the auto industry. With $6.9 billion in net industrial debt at the end of the third quarter, the carmaker has limited resources to invest compared with its main competitors.

Fiat Chrysler shares rose 0.4 percent to $8.49 at 9:51 a.m. in New York.

‘Dilemma for Automakers’

“A key theme for 2017 will be the increased availability of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean said. “This provides a dilemma for automakers as they sacrifice traditional cash-cow internal combustion engine sales for expensive and lower-margin electric cars, necessary to meet onerous new emissions legislation.”

FCA already sells a plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica minivan. The Pacifica is also the model that FCA and Google are using to jointly develop self-driving vehicle systems.

Ford Motor Co., which plans to invest $4.5 billion in electrified vehicles by 2020 and to install this technology in 40 percent of its nameplates, said it will lobby President-elect Donald Trump to soften U.S. fuel-economy rules that hurt profits by forcing automakers to build more electric cars and hybrids than are warranted by customer demand.

“In 2008, there were 12 electrified vehicles offered in the U.S. market and it represented 2.3 percent of the industry,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Southfield, Michigan, office last week. “Fast forward to 2016, there’s 55 models, and year to date it’s 2.8 percent.”

Fiat said Thursday that it plans to show a new model first at CES instead of Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. CES has become a very important show for carmakers, which tend to debut high-tech models with electric drive, connected features or autonomous driving at that event.

Last year, General Motors Co. showed the Chevrolet Bolt electric car there. BMW AG, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit and Volkswagen AG all presented vehicles with new technology ideas in Las Vegas.

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