DETROIT — Call it Chrysler's Hail Mary strategy.
Caught in a vise between looming federal fuel economy regulations and its own desperate financial circumstances, Chrysler LLC revealed last week that it will put a line of electric vehicles into production — one of the vehicles in 2010.
With its revelation, Chrysler hoped to silence critics who said the company had no new products to brag about. The tactic also buys more time for Chrysler to find partners to help it introduce fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
"These are extraordinary times for the auto industry," said Chrysler LLC CEO Bob Nardelli as his company unveiled three electric vehicle prototypes. Chrysler has no option but to invest in alternative powertrain development, even if it means "gut-wrenching" decisions to cut other projects, Nardelli said.
Now, the battle lines have been drawn. Each of the Detroit 3 has a distinct, high-stakes survival strategy.
Ford Motor Co. is betting on a batch of small cars developed in Europe to attract buyers seeking fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, General Motors is investing in a varied range of smaller vehicles and efficient powertrains.
While the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid has generated headlines, GM believes it can generate high-volume sales with the less exotic — but fuel-efficient — vehicles such as the compact Chevy Cruze.
Like Chrysler, Ford and GM hope their big plays will be game-changers by 2010, when pent-up customer demand could bring customers flocking back. Here's a look at their survival strategies: