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Why is Chrysler hot on hybrids now?

by David Zatz on

While the Ram 1500 diesel is both popular and at the top of the economy charts, and other FCA US cars tend to have roughly average economy, the company is jumping into gas-electric vehicles.

hybrid nameplate

FCA has been trying to increase its average gas mileage (the flip-side of reducing emissions), but its customers aren’t helping. Few Dodge Dart Aeros found takers, and the V6 remains a popular Chrysler 200 options. The company’s best sellers tend to be trucks, Jeeps, minivans, and large cars; Fiat 500s are languishing at dealerships, as gas prices remain low and the public turns to Japan and Germany for small cars.

So far, Chrysler’s move to wider-range transmissions, stop-start systems, and parasitic loss reduction hasn’t been enough — partly due to the popularity of the Wrangler, which is rated at 17 city, 21 highway.

The government recently released a report on 2014 emissions credit trading, which showed that FCA bought 8.2 billion kilograms of emissions credits to make up for their inability to meet the standards. This stands in stark contrast to the 1980s, when the company was the only American automaker to make CAFE standards.

Chrysler hybrid engine gauge - coming to minivans?The report said that FCA didn’t even have to buy any credits for 2014, because it would have made the numbers anyway — partly due to more efficient air conditioning systems and better control of parasitic losses. It appears the purchase was to make up for prior years. The company is countering a trend for gas mileage to actually fall, moving from 20.8 mpg in 2014 to an expected 21.8 in 2015 — in both years, falling in last place.

Money for the credits went to Tesla, Nissan, and Honda, two of which are fierce competitors.

Thus, we expect hybrid minivans in 2017, followed by other hybrid cars. Even if the company doesn’t make money from them — even if they lose money — it is probably better than funding Honda’s next Odyssey.   Credit: Reuters via Automotive News.

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