Fiat S.p.A, parent company of Detroit auto maker Chrysler has announced plans to begin selling pickup trucks under the Ram nameplate powered exclusively by natural-gas in the United States. The trucks will start by being offered to fleets and will slowly make their way to the general public as more fueling stations pop up.
“We are going to bring them here, there is no doubt,” Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler told Business Week in an interview yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Marchionne expects sales to be “limited at first. It depends upon the distribution network.”
Fiat currently has engines that utilize compressed natural-gas in Europe, and Chrysler executives speaking with Bloomberg said they intend on delivering trucks with the same technology by 2017. Fleet customers will have the first crack at trucks that use compressed natural-gas with the general public having the chance after that. Chrysler won’t say if it plans on targeting specific clients such as the government or other commercial businesses.
It appears Chrysler is headed in the direction of compressed natural-gas as Marchionne believes it’s much more cost-effective than hybrid technology. Marchionne believes natural-gas engines are the “best option” and that hybrid technology presents “too many obstacles.” The additional cost of running a natural-gas engine rings in at $3000 which is better than the $3300 required for a diesel engine and the $8000 needed to power a hybrid.
While Marchionne appears to be onto something with the use of natural-gas, refilling stations are severely limited in the U.S. According to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles’ website there are 1000 natural-gas stations in the entire U.S. and 112,000 vehicles that run on it as of December 2010. Worldwide there are 12.7 million vehicles that run on natural gas and 18,202 stations to refill at. Currently Honda is the only auto maker to offer a vehicle that runs on natural-gas alone, the Civic Natural Gas sedan. The sedan was originally only available in California, New York, Utah, and Oklahoma. Now the Civic NG is offered in 36 states from 200 dealers across the country.
Source: Business Week