Since its daylong Nov. 4 session on corporate strategy, Chrysler Group has been "internally focused," as one spokesman explained to me recently.
Fair enough -- Chrysler has labored through a grueling year, trying to stabilize the company post-bankruptcy. But being too quiet risks the possibility of being overlooked, particularly in the jostling alternative powertrain race.
So it was good to hear Paolo Ferrero, Chrysler's senior vice president for powertrain, speak at the Automotive News Green Car Conference/Exhibition last week.
Ferrero said the electric version of the Fiat 500 that Chrysler will bring out in 2012 is only part of a broader electrification strategy. Chrysler has said it will test 140 Ram plug-in hybrids, although no date is set for retail sale.
Though mum about details, Ferrero implied that Chrysler will fill in the gaps between minicars and full-sized pickups.
"These are the two extremes, let's say," Ferrero said in an interview. "We have an electrification strategy, but we cannot yet disclose it."
Ferrero also repeated the pitch that Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has been making for compressed natural gas as an internal combustion fuel. Fiat has a strong position in CNG vehicles in Europe, ranging from passenger cars to commercial vehicles.
Ferrero says CNG is abundant and clean-burning and could be used in conventional engines with some modifications. There's an existing natural gas pipeline system, too.
What are lacking are refueling stations -- and that may be CNG's fatal flaw. It is competing for stations with batteries, biofuels and hydrogen. How many new refueling systems is the country likely to build?