Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said today that the Italian luxury brand will begin to produce electric vehicles, possibly before the end of the decade, in a move that could position the brand as a competitor to Tesla.
Marchionne made the announcement during a conference call following the company’s release of its second-quarter earnings.
“I think we’re now in a position to acknowledge that at least one of our brands, and in particular Maserati, will, when it completes the development of its next two models, effectively switch all of its portfolio to electrification and as these products come up for renewal post 2019 it will start launching vehicles which are all electric and which will … be considered state-of-the-art technology,” Marchionne said.
The move toward electrification comes as other automakers such as Volvo have announced their own electric initiatives. Volvo, owned by China’s Geely, announced this month its new vehicles would be electric or hybrid after 2019. And Tesla continues to make waves with its electric vehicles.
“It’s an integral part of the development of the group, and I think it’s an integral (part) of a broader strategy on electrification which will see more than half of its fleet … incorporated in electrification” by 2022, Marchionne said of Maserati, which is moving its North American headquarters from New Jersey to Auburn Hills.
The announcement marks a switch for Marchionne, who previously had not embraced widespread electrification, but who noted that issues with diesel engines have shifted the conversation. Automakers have been hammered by allegations of diesel emissions cheating this year, which has sullied the reputation of clean diesel technology as companies try to meet emissions requirements.
Despite that, Marchionne said costs need to come down in order to make electrification more accessible and desirable to the public.
“My aversion to electrification is based on pure cost issues,” Marchionne said. “What has made it mandatory is the fate of diesel.”