A New Reason Electric Cars Make Chrysler's Marchionne Nervous


2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne isn't very interested in electric cars.

When his company launched the battery-electric Fiat 500e, Marchionne was quick to point out that it was only doing so to comply with California's zero-emission vehicle mandate.

And though FCA just launched the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan, Marchionne still isn't  a fan of cars with plugs.

DON'T MISS: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: Plug-In Minivan Offers 30 Miles Of Electric Range

Now, the Fiat Chrysler chief executive is worried that electric cars will accelerate a process of "disintermediation," according to the Financial Times (subscription required).

In other words, he's afraid increased use of electric powertrains will lead to carmakers ceding control of vehicle components to suppliers.

Carmakers used to manufacture virtually all of their own components, but now retain firm control over only powertrain components, Marchionne said in an interview at the Detroit show.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Enlarge Photo
He believes carmakers will lose this last reserve of oversight if they switch to electric powertrains.

"If we start losing any of that," Marchionne said, "we will not be able to hang on to any proprietary knowledge and control of that business."

ALSO SEE: Chrysler CEO Underscores, Again: Electric Fiat 500e Loses Money (Apr 2013)

While Marchionne did not name it specifically, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which will be built under a far-reaching partnership between General Motors and battery supplier LG.

In addition to supplying the 200-mile electric car's batteries, LG will provide everything from the electric drive motor to infotainment system.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Enlarge Photo
Because they can be readily purchased from suppliers, analysts have also pointed to electric powertrains as facilitating the entry of companies like Apple into the car industry.

The past few years have seen a number of electric-car startups emerge in Silicon Valley including Tesla and, more recently, Chinese-backed Faraday Future and Atieva.

MORE: Chrysler Admits: Electric Fiat 500 Is Compliance Car We Don't Want To Make (May 2012)

So if electric powertrains really are contributing to disintermediation, they may also be making it possible for a host of new competitors to challenge established carmakers.

Only time will tell if Marchionne should lose any sleep over that.

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