2018 Fiat 500eEnlarge Photo
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has large challenges, even nine years after it was formed when the Italian company Fiat took over the bankrupt U.S. maker Chrysler.
While its Jeep and Ram truck brands are doing well, it sells only three passenger cars in North America above the subcompact category, all of them 10 to 15 years old.
Its CEO, Sergio Marchionne, famously complained for years about the Fiat 500e compliance car it had to sell to comply with California's zero-emission vehicle sales mandate.
DON'T MISS: Fiat-Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne doesn't think electric cars, Tesla are viable (Oct 2017)
Now, however, the outspoken CEO may be changing his tune slightly.
During last week's media days at the Geneva auto show, Marchionne took part in a roundtable question-and-answer session with a group of automotive and business journalists.
"In China, for example, we have made a number of mistakes in the past and underestimating new energy vehicles in the market has been one," he said, according to British outlet Just-Auto. "We are looking at that."
Sergio MarchionneEnlarge Photo
The term New Energy Vehicle is used in China to refer to plug-in electric vehicles, both battery-electric and plug-in hybrid versions.
Last September, China said in official government media that it was assessing in which year it would ban sales of new vehicles with combustion engines altogether.
The country is not only the world's largest car market, at 30 million vehicles a year, but also has long aimed at dominating global production of solar photovoltaic cells, lithium-ion battery cells, and plug-in electric cars.
As a result, its sales of electric cars are twice those in North America, though representing roughly the same 1 percent of the market as in the U.S.
That volume is expected to grow quickly, however, as national, state, and local governments bring to bear a variety of carrots and sticks to encourage the purchase of vastly more electric vehicles in the years to come.
Next year, zero-emission vehicle sales requirements will come into effect in China that are modeled on California's—but at a much higher percentage and ramping very quickly.
2018 Chrysler Pacifica HybridEnlarge Photo
While Jeep was famously the first U.S. car brand to be granted permission to assemble cars inside China with a local automaker as a partner, what is now FCA is nowhere near as successful in China as crosstown Detroit rival General Motors.
Now it has to put together a slate of battery-electric vehicles if it hopes to sustain and grow its sales efforts in the country.
In addition to the Fiat 500e with its EPA-rated 84 miles of range, which remains almost entirely unchanged from its 2013 debut, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is actually a plug-in hybrid with 33 miles of electric range.
That vehicle has been well-received, and the plug-in hybrid model offers a significant boost in fuel economy—32 mpg combined vs 22 mpg combined—over its conventional gasoline-powered counterpart.
FCA has also announced that it will sell a plug-in hybrid version of the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler, likely within two or three years, but only after the diesel Wrangler launches.
For all the coverage of the green-car concepts and production models on display in Switzerland, see our Geneva auto-show news page.