Chrysler CEO: Going Green is Good, But Natural Gas Better Than Electric

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Sergio Marchionne

Sergio Marchionne

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Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne isn't known for his love of electric vehicles.

We really rate the company's first offering, the 2014 Fiat 500e electric car, but Sergio himself doesn't--speaking at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2013 World Congress, he reiterated that the company is losing $10,000 on every example it sells.

According to The Detroit News, Marchionne wants automakers to have more freedom over which green technology to move forward with--and his own preference is for natural gas.

He believes natural gas is the "cleanest alternative available" to oil-based fuels, and that governments should remain "technology neutral" rather than pushing for legislation that dictates the direction of technology.

To his credit, Marchionne does believe that automakers should strive to reduce their impact on the environment--even if that's largely for business reasons.

"We must try to project ourselves into the future, taken account of the consequences of our own individual actions," he said. Fiat-Chrysler is currently the seventh-biggest automaker in the world--and as the market gets tougher, it's unlikely any company smaller will survive on its own.

Maserati: "Electric cars are nonsense"

His words are backed up by those of Maserati boss Harald Wester, who voiced his own concerns at the opening of the Shanghai Auto Show in China.

"All this discussion about zero emissions is nonsense", said Wester (via Autocar), "Nobody talks about the efficiency of how the battery is charged. It varies strongly from region to region, depending on how the energy is produced, nuclear, coal and so on, but even the best is not ahead of the internal combustion engine."

He added that Maserati might well develop a hybrid vehicle at some stage, though largely for meeting emissions legislation than for any practical purpose.

His comments aren't surprising considering Maserati's position under electric-skeptic Fiat, though the observant may note that another Fiat subsidiary, Ferrari, is forging ahead with its own hybrid hypercar, LaFerrari.

Electric still cleaner in 'Compliance Car' California

It isn't hard to see that Marchionne and Wester's comments are partly based on the company's struggle to bring a viable car to market in the hybrid and electric segments. The concept certainly has business potential, as 5 million hybrid-selling Toyota would attest.

Marchionne also has to ask himself whether he's willing for Fiat and Chrysler vehicles to have their emissions measured on a well-to-wheels basis. In California at least, the battery electric vehicle still rules under such a measurement, proving cleaner than Fiat's preferred diesels or natural gas vehicles.

Of course, Marchionne's argument is that such a decision should be taken out of the government's hands--rather than being forced to sell electric vehicles in a particular country or state.

Justifiable complaint or not though, all automakers are in the same boat--and if some can make it work, then Fiat and Chrysler must figure it out for themselves.

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