FCA Admits Underestimating the Rise of Electric Cars Was a ‘Mistake’

Chrysler boss Marchionne brought up some mistakes the company made in China, including underestimating electric cars.

Electric cars aren’t in the majority (yet), but there’s no denying that during the past year, there has been a large surge in popularity. Manufacturers are switching resources from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles in favor of electrifying their fleets, or even completely swearing off gasoline in the name of clean energy. One manufacturer in particular, however, believed that electrification was a bad bet in Q4 2017, but ate its words in Geneva this year, less than six months after folding its proverbial hand.

During the annual Geneva Motor Show, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sat down with press during a round table event where he discussed various rumors and aspects of the FCA brands. One particular area which Marchionne addressed was that of electric cars, specifically regarding the company’s bet that investing in Chinese-market electrification was a waste of time. 

“In China, for example, we have made a number of mistakes in the past and underestimating new energy vehicles in the market has been one,” said Marchionne in an interview with Just Auto​​​, “We are looking at that.”

As various manufacturers showed off the newest technology in electric and even self-driving cars, Chrysler fell by the wayside and humbly sat outside of the spotlight. Aside from the Abarth 124 GT, FCA was seemingly transparent to the crowds. Perhaps because the manufacturer bet its fortune on the wrong industry, or maybe because its margins simply weren’t affordable. One thing is certain, the alternative fuel auto industry isn’t being lead by the big three in Detroit, and the Germans are playing catch up at this point. So just who is pushing electric cars to becoming the future of mobility?

China is no stranger to electrification. In fact, it has been one of the primary driving forces behind the movement of affordable and sustainable battery-powered vehicle components after the government set a deadline for electrification. By 2019, at least 10 percent of a given manufacturer’s annual sales would need to be for electric cars. This number would increase to 12 percent in 2020, and potentially beyond. The eastern nation may even be subsidizing electric cars says another report, and continuing to push the development even further.

This isn’t to say that Chrysler hasn’t put out some impressive products over the past year. Hell, the Demon can run sub-10 second quarter miles and even pop a wheelie off of the line; what other cars can do that today? But being an automaker isn’t about being flashy and impressive all of the time. Instead, sustainability must be considered as the market changes. It’s imperative that if FCA’s stance on electrification has changed that it decide how to proceed with the company’s research and lineup rather quickly, otherwise some of its brands could be left in the dust while the big three become the big two.