New Mach-E shows why FCA had to join PSA
Serious sports cars of the future will be electrically powered.
It’s not a new thought. Tesla, if nothing else, proved that gasoline engines were on the way out for high-end cars. Dodge, often the most innovative muscle-car maker, did its best with the relatively low-buck, insanely high-horsepower Hellcat series. The original 707-horse Hellcats held their own with Teslas on the track, but with Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche, Jaguar, GM, Ford, and others all redoubling their electric-car efforts, the writing was already on the wall. A moderately decent Hellcat driver could be outrun by a good Tesla driver.
Dodge countered with cars such as the Demon (840 hp on race fuel) and Redeye (797 hp), but the electrics are also getting faster as time goes on. There are literally dozens of promising research projects on lighter, cheaper replacements for today’s lithium-ion batteries, and the cost of renewable electricity has been plummeting—even beyond the low cost of fracked natural gas.
Now, the Mach-E, Ford’s first electric car (or crossover), is grabbing headlines, and for all the right reasons. It’s fast, practical, comfortable, and priced within the Hellcat range.
The problem over at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is time. They jumped ahead with the Pacifica plug-in hybrid, but have yet to do the kind of performance-driven electric car needed by Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and the now-independent-but-still-related Ferrari. FCA has all sorts of electrified cars in development, on both sides of the Atlantic, but the work appears to be going very slowly, and leaks to the public indicate that work is well behind schedule.
FCA had overcome its original problems of profitability and lack of cash; but now it has found another problem, in addition to the dead-end street of niche marketing (where chassis and bodies can’t really be shared between its many brands, because each brand is in a different niche). PSA (Peugeot/Citroën), on the other hand, has more advanced expertise in hybridization at least, as well as a better reputation for quality than either FCA or Renault. What’s more, the one area where FCA is clearly over-represented, large-engined vehicles—albatrosses, to a large degree, at a time when fuel economy standards are increasing—is where PSA literally has nothing. Ram, Jeep, and Dodge are all completely new markets for PSA, not to mention Maserati and Alfa Romeo sitting where DS wants to be.
The future is electric, and by merging with PSA, Fiat Chrysler may be able to see it.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, lives in Farmingdale, New York, and can be reached at +1.516-531-4021.