Fiat Chrysler plans a major ramp-up of production for its two best-selling brands, Jeep and Ram, by adding a new assembly plant in Detroit as part of a $4.5 billion investment program announced last week.
The automaker also announced its most significant commitment yet to adding electric vehicles to its lineup, starting with at least four new Jeep plug-in hybrids. That's a significant move for the automaker. Former CEO Sergio Marchionne was so skeptical of battery powertrain technology that he once asked potential customers not to buy its first all-electric model, the Fiat 500e, because the company expected to lose more than $10,000 on every vehicle it sold.
The likelihood is that it will be difficult to make money, even with the new electric models Fiat Chrysler is planning. Between regulators and the competition, the company has no choice, industry analysts say. The challenge will be to come up with battery-based models that can turn on consumers even when gas is cheap.