To say that Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is skeptical about electric cars is an understatement. However, the executive has announced plans to take on Tesla’s recently unveiled Model 3 with a premium electric car of its own if the sedan is profitable.
“[If Elon Musk] can show me that the car will be profitable at that price, I will copy the formula, add the Italian design flair, and get it to the market within 12 months,” revealed Marchionne in an interview with industry trade journal Automotive News.
Marchionne pointed out that he’s not surprised Tesla has received close to 400,000 pre-orders for the Model 3, the most affordable car it has ever introduced. And while Model 3 reservations are promising, he added that building 400,000 cars and delivering them while turning a profit is easier said than done. In short, he stated that he doesn’t see a way that Tesla can make money if it sells the Model 3 for $35,000. Musk hasn’t issued a reply yet.
Unlike many of its rivals, Fiat-Chrysler has been reluctant to launch an all-electric model. Currently, the only battery-powered car in its global lineup is a plug-in version of the 500 city car dubbed 500e (pictured). Marchionne bluntly admitted that the 500e is a compliance car developed solely to meet the California Air Resources Board’s zero-emissions regulations. He explained that his company loses about $14,000 on every example it builds, and he famously urged car shoppers not to buy one.
Officially, Fiat-Chrysler hasn’t approved the development of an electric model yet, but it’s taking baby steps towards plug-in hybrids. The gasoline-electric version of the new Pacifica minivan is Chrysler’s first-ever plug-in hybrid, and Maserati is tentatively set to launch a plug-in version of the Levante next year. Interestingly, the two hybrids will share many electric components.