Chrysler Electric Cars Trump Chevy Volt, Prius--Or Do They? Page 2

September 23, 2008

About that urban car, by the way: Chrysler may be serious about the idea of a limited-range city vehicle. In that same piece, the company gave strong hints that it thinks there's a market for a car that offers a range higher than 40 miles, but far lower than the 300 expected of a "regular" car.

Taking a stance against GM’s notion of "range anxiety," Chrysler suggests that it sees a group of buyers—apparently anal-retentive list-makers and mileage loggers—who'd be entirely comfortable with such a vehicle. The secret sauce may be that Chrysler owns Global Electric Motors (GEM), which has sold almost 40,000 "neighborhood electric vehicles" over the past 10 years. In other words, the company probably has a fair grasp on what EV users actually like and want. It promises to be a fascinating market exercise, if it actually happens.

In the end, I'm happy that Chrysler dropped this bombshell into our hidebound little world. For a long time, GM was the only North American electric-drive pioneer out there—and you know what they say about pioneers. (Something about arrows in the back…) Of course, Toyota is quietly spending hundreds of millions of dollars (cash the U.S. makers don’t actually have) to maintain its decade-long dominance of hybrid vehicles. And it's said to be thinking about making the Prius its own brand, with its own lineup of vehicles. One day soon, those cars will start rolling into showrooms, with less hoopla and much shorter lead times.

Meanwhile, let's give Chrysler two cheers. I'm keeping the third one until I actually drive production-ready versions of these suckers. And by the way, GM: That goes for the Volt, too.—John Voelcker

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