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Chrysler shows 4 new electric models on CNBC (updated)

by Bill Cawthon on

Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning to discuss the state of Chrysler, the auto industry, government funding and to unveil four new Chrysler vehicles.

Nardelli and Lebeau drove the all-electric Dodge EV sports coupe with a lithium-ion battery pack which can hit 60 in under five seconds and has a range of 150-200 miles between charges. Recharging takes 4 hours on 220V and 8 hours on 110V household current.

Tom LaSorda and Frank Klegon joined Nardelli to show an extended-range electric Chrysler minivan which LaSorda said has a range of 400 miles on 8-9 gallons of gasoline. For the first 40 miles of a trip, the vehicle is all-electric with zero emissions.

The Chrysler executives also unveiled the new Jeep EV which is an extended-range Wrangler Unlimited with electric motors in each wheel. LaSorda said the Chrysler and Jeep extended-range vehicles have a one-liter engine that powers the vehicle after the initial charge is depleted.

Last, the group showed the Peapod, an egg-shaped prototype of a neighborhood electric vehicle similar to the vehicles produced by Chrysler’s Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) subsidiary. Nardelli said it’s perfect for gated communities and added Chrysler will develop a city car based on the Peapod.

The four vehicles will be shipped to Washington so lawmakers can examine them, bolstering the automakers’ case for government support of domestic technology development.

Chrysler wants to have at least one of the vehicles on the market by the end of 2010. Mass-market volumes could be ready to go in 2011, depending on consumer reaction and interest. LaSorda added that some of the units could be in fleets by 2009.

Nardelli said he worried about how the proposed $25 billion in government loans are structured. He doesn’t want to trade dependence on foreign oil for dependence on foreign manufacturers for battery technology and wants to be sure the loans are available for technology development.

Nardelli told CNBC’s Phil Lebeau he is happy Chrysler is owned by Cerberus and reiterated the company is delivering on its goals. Nardelli noted Chrysler’s lineup is improving with “heart-pounding Challenger” and the imminent rollout of what he called the “most dominant light-duty truck in the industry.”

Questioned about the state of the industry and slumping sales, Nardelli echoed comments made by other automakers, saying the biggest crisis they face is “the credit crisis for our customers.” Nardelli describes qualifying for new car loans as challenging. He pointed out the economy is in turmoil and sector is downward spiraling and government support of the financial institutions is critical to persuade lenders to get back in the game.

With the end or curtailment of leasing, Nardelli noted leases accounted for about 20 percent of transactions and said automakers are “scurrying” to cover loss of leases by subventing loans and other strategies.

Asked about Cerberus’ plans for Chrysler, Nardelli said Steve Feinberg is “totally committed.” Nardelli added Feinberg is a patriot and “absolutely believes it’s critically important that we save the auto industry” for the United States, its economy and the state of Michigan.

In a later segment of the show, Nardelli said today is a “great day for Chrysler and a great day for the auto industry” as he unveiled four new vehicles developed by Chrysler’s ENVI Division.

Nardelli said the ENVI Program, which was created in 2007, is proof the company is steering a new course to recovery. He said the internal motto is, “We’ve been knocked down but never been knocked out.”

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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