DETROIT — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles wasn't an early contender in the electric vehicle race, leaving its successor, Stellantis, to play catch-up. But given the slow development of the EV market, dealers and analysts say the automaker's timing could turn out to be just right.
It wasn't long ago when FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne was questioning the business case of battery-electric models, while making Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Maserati the center of the company's EV strategy in a five-year plan introduced just weeks before his 2018 death. Marchionne declared that the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid demonstrated how the company could electrify its portfolio, with such plug-in hybrids being the focus and fully electrified options becoming part of the mix for Jeep and Maserati by 2022.
Marchionne was preparing to conservatively ramp up FCA's electric presence as competitors pursued more aggressive plans. After FCA merged with PSA group to form Stellantis in January, the automaker committed more than $35 billion to electrification and software by 2025.
Some dealers say this is a great moment for Stellantis to pounce with electrified options, pointing to the early success of the Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid as a sign that the market is ripe. They also see the influence of Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares on the company's expansive vision that calls for some level of electrification across all of its 14 brands.
John Grant, who owns three Stellantis stores in Las Vegas, said reaction to the Wrangler 4xe convinced him that the time is right to commit further to EVs.
However, Grant understands that Stellantis has "a lot of work ahead."
"I don't necessarily think they're behind," Grant told Automotive News. "I think they're going to end up leading the charge. We're going to be the ones to catch."