That's just one challenge FCA could be facing if it hopes to deliver on the big jump in sales, earnings and dividends it is promising as part of its five-year plan.
For his part, Marchionne insisted this "secular move away from cars" is as close to permanent as possible.
Joe Phillippi, head of AutoTrends Consulting, said he agreed, noting that the fuel economy of light trucks has improved so dramatically that it makes relatively little difference anymore.
FCA, like virtually all of its competitors, hopes to make mileage a non-issue by boosting the use of electrified powertrain technologies. The brand was a laggard until the recent launch of the plug-in hybrid version of its Pacifica minivan. It has developed a modular system that can be fitted together in a variety of ways to create 12 different types of electrified drivelines, from mild hybrids to pure battery-electric vehicles.
Jeep, for example, plans to offer at least one battery-based option for every model by the end of the plan in 2022. And that Maserati Alfieri sports car will use a plug-in hybrid system that will allow it to operate in zero-emission mode — or launch from 0 to 100 kmh (62 mph) in barely two seconds.
FCA is also counting on the Trump administration's planned rollback of the 54.5 mile-per-gallon Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard set during the Obama administration, noted Mark Chernoby, the automaker's chief technical compliance officer.
Where the White House might giveth, however, it may be ready to taketh away. The import tariffs President Donald Trump is proposing could cripple demand for imports, especially luxury vehicles like those from Maserati and Alfa.
Marchionne downplayed "belligerent statements … made for political purposes." He said he was confident there would be a "happy middle ground (once) this game plays out completely."
During a recent meeting with top automotive leaders, Trump called Marchionne his "favorite" CEO, so the FCA chief likely has reason to hope suasion can work.
One possible resolution would be to offset imports with automotive exports.
"That would be fine," he said, suggesting that Fiat Chrysler could take steps to ship more U.S.-made products abroad, perhaps simply by shifting production plans.
Of course, Marchionne might also say, "Not my problem."