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Marchionne: EVs won’t help planet

by Chris Vander Doelen on

FCA boss Sergio Marchionne donned his iconoclast cloak again last week when he scoffed at the claimed climate-saving value of EVs and battery-powered transportation in general.

The only reason Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is developing money-losing electric vehicles is because it’s being forced to by CO2 legislation on both side of the Atlantic, he told reporters after a speech in Italy last week. EVs “are not the answer” to climate challenges, he said. “I think we will find better ways to do this.”

Solar power is good, Marchionne allowed; automotive fuel cells might prove to be pretty good, too. But ten years from now nobody will be claiming that EVs fixed anything, Marchionne told Bloomberg News. “It’s too early to assume that by itself electrification will solve the problems. It won’t.”

Marchionne doubled down by claiming that EVs are actually worse for the environment than petroleum-powered vehicles because of the large amount of CO2 emitted during the battery manufacturing process.

A lot of people think Marchionne is right, but few are saying so on the record — and almost none of the sceptics in the spotlight are in the automotive industry. Since former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz famously got beat up a decade ago for calling global warming “a total crock,” pretty much everybody in the industry accepts (publicly) that electric is the future. Even Lutz later recanted and called electrification “inevitable.”

Predictably, Marchionne is already under fire for daring to question climate warming orthodoxy. Writing for the Automotive News, Andrea Malan accused Marchionne of using “alternative facts” to denigrate the value of EVs, and of ignoring how much good they can do a country such as China. Malan excoriated the FCA chief for failing to invest in EV research, the way Ford and GM are.

And that may be the crux of the argument. It’s not whether EVs will save the planet or the polar bears, but whose products get the credit.


Chris Vander Doelen was Opinion Editor and columnist of The Windsor Star until December, 2016; he was the Star's automotive reporter and columnist for seven years, and had also covered the political and gambling beats. With his wife, Veronique Mandal, he wrote the book Chasing Lightning (1999). Chris won a National Newspaper Award in 1997 and more than a dozen provincial news awards. There is a Chrysler 300 in his driveway.

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