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Chrysler's electric dream

Battery ram: Chrysler will next year release hybrid versions of the Durango (above) and Aspen SUVs.

Chrysler gets green with envi as Daimler and BMW announce new hybrid deal

Chrysler logo19 Sep 2007

By GEORGIA OCONNELL

CHRYSLER announced last week the creation of a new engineering division – ENVI – which will be responsible for bringing electric-drive vehicles and related advanced-propulsion technologies to market. Based at the American auto giant’s headquarters in Detroit, ENVI will be headed by engineering veteran Lou Rhodes. As ENVI president, Mr Rhodes – who most recently served as advanced vehicle concepts and innovation director – will report to Chrysler’s product development executive vice-president Frank Klegon and procurement and supply executive VP Simon Boag, both of whom will serve as co-chairs of ENVI.

“The creation of ENVI allows us to focus on the development of a new generation of environmentally responsible Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles,” said Chrysler chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli. “Under Lou’s leadership, ENVI will develop electric-propulsion vehicles that will provide customers with more fuel-efficient vehicle options.” Chrysler is expected to launch its first two petrol-electric hybrid vehicles – the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs – to the North American market next year, using technology developed in collaboration with General Motors, BMW and Daimler (when operating as DaimlerChrysler).

 center imageLeft: Chrysler engineering veteran Lou Rhodes.

It is not certain whether Chrysler – now independent from Daimler, although the latter holds a 19.9 per cent share – will continue to use this “full” hybrid powertrain when it reaches its second generation during next decade. Daimler and BMW also announced last week that the two archrivals had collaborated on a second, this time “mild” hybrid powertrain – set to debut in the Mercedes-Benz S400 V6 petrol-electric sedan in 2009 – and Chrysler has since indicated that it, too, was involved in the development of this technology and could therefore use it in a forthcoming Chrysler-badged hybrid. Chrysler has not outlined specific plans for wholly electric or fuel-cell vehicles. The company said last week that ENVI would be comprised of a team of specialists in engineering, portfolio management, modular architecture, manufacturing, and procurement and supply. Mr Rhodes has worked for Chrysler since 1993 in numerous roles in advanced vehicle engineering and product design. “ENVI will operate as a ‘start up’ with an entrepreneurial environment,” explained Chrysler vice-chairman Tom LaSorda. “The organisation is empowered to leverage the vast resources within Chrysler to develop appropriate solutions quickly. The unique structure will facilitate a speed-to-market development process, employing innovation in all aspects of the business and exploring new and unique ways of engaging target customers into the production development.”

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