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Chrysler Pegs 2010 as Year of Its Electric Car


MSNBC.com
September 23, 2008


Auburn Hills, Michigan - Chrysler LLC said Tuesday it will put an electric car
on sale in North America in 2010, revealing that despite missing out on the buzz
surrounding the Chevrolet Volt, it is neck and neck with General Motors Corp. in
the race to put a mass-produced electric vehicle on America's roads.

The company showed reporters three electric prototypes: a Dodge sports car, a
Jeep and a Chrysler minivan. But Chrysler's product development chief, Frank
Klegon, said the automaker hasn't decided which one it will roll out first.
The Dodge sports car is completely electric, but the Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler
minivan models will have a recharging system similar to the Volt, which GM has
said will go on sale in November 2010. The Volt plugs into a standard wall
outlet and can go 40 miles (65 kilometers) on battery power alone, but then a
small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the batteries, allowing the car to
travel hundreds more miles.

Chrysler is still working with several partners on the battery technology for
its vehicles, Klegon said.

Rising gas prices and the decline in U.S. auto sales has put GM, Chrysler and
Ford Motor Co. under pressure to break away from their dependence on trucks and
SUVs for profits and focus on more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Chrysler's sales have taken the hardest hit, but the Auburn Hills-based
automaker appeared to be behind other automakers that have touted plans to
launch electric vehicles in the next few years.

Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda said Tuesday that the company is further ahead on
developing electric vehicles than many had thought, but it kept the cars secret
until recently.

"We believe in the saying, 'Actions speak louder than words,'" LaSorda said.

Toyota Motor Corp. also is pushing to get a plug-in electric vehicle to market
in 2010, while Ford, which is testing 20 on roads in California, says it is five
years away from producing them in significant numbers.

Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli said the technologies the company
displayed Tuesday would be accelerated if Congress funds a $25 billion loan
program to help automakers and their suppliers modernize their plants to make
more fuel-efficient vehicles.

He said if the loans aren't available, the production of electric vehicles would
be slowed by constraints in financing and the development process, and amid the
industry's current struggles, that could lead to more layoffs and further
production capacity cuts.

"There's only a limited amount of liquidity," Nardelli said. But he denied that
Chrysler showed off its electric prototypes Tuesday because Congress is
considering the loan funding this week.

 

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