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With Sergio Marchionne leaving Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and FCA releasing new five-year plans for various brands, we’re starting to see a large shift with vehicles from all sorts of brands in the industry. Electrification and automation are starting to become a higher priority of automakers. If that is the new big thing in the next five years, then what can we expect from automakers already on the ground floor with those electrified and automated autos? What about luxury cars and sports cars not known for alternative fuel, going green, or automation?
The Fiat Chrysler Automobile Group
For one thing, we know FCA is already getting in on hybrid, electric, and self-driving vehicles. The only pure-electric vehicle may be the flailing Fiat 500e, but the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, actually a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or plug-in hybrid, has been doing very well for itself. Not to mention the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid makes up the Google Waymo self-driving vehicle fleet, and based on a report from Autocar, FCA confirms that 62,000 more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid models will be used by Waymo in the next coming months. This will help build the foundation of their soon-to-be-released Uber rival self-driving app.
With the FCA Group also dipping its toe further into hybrid technology with the 48-volt mild-hybrid eTorque system, we can already see other brands falling in line with the new plan - Jeep especially. An all-electric Jeep Wrangler is already being talked about, and the new Wrangler JL and 2019 Cherokee come with the eTorque system. What does this mean for sports cars though?
An automaker like Porsche may have the answer to that. No one would expect an electric vehicle coming from a sports car automaker. That may change for the first time in awhile.
“Porsche's center has always been series production sports cars, but nowhere is it written that we cannot have both a futuristic car like the Mission E, while having a car like the upcoming 911 GT3 RS, which is the purest, most analog car we build … It makes perfect sense and they go together quite well; they serve very different purposes. To be very tangible about it, one is a weekend car for fun driving on a track or through beautiful curvy roads, while the other is to enjoy on the way to work on a daily basis during the week. Hobby instrument versus daily instrument." - Andreas Preuninger, head of GT car development at Porsche.
Automakers On the Ground Floor
We already know their are automakers who have been playing on the ground floor for years now. The Kia Motors model lineup already has several models that use alternative fuel sources like the 2018 Kia Niro hybrid crossover, Kia Optima hybrid sedan, Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid crossover, Kia Soul EV, and the Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid sedan. The lineup will soon be further expanding with a Kia Niro Electric said to be able to travel up to 238 miles on a single electric charge, and the Kia Telluride hybrid SUV concept.
Then there’s also the Chevrolet Bolt EV that has made a lot of headway for the autonomous self-driving car race. Chevy may not yet be getting certification from U.S. streets to deploy driverless vehicles around town (the Google Waymo was recently certified as an autonomous ride-hailing network in Phoenix, Arizona), but drivers overseas may soon be handing the wheel over to the computer. We do wonder why the Chevy Bolt EV will have trouble moving forward on American soil though. According to studies, the Chevy Bolt EV is a better driver than most humans.
If anything, the auto industry needs to step it up when automakers like Kia Motors and Chevrolet are dominating as much as they are. These are the new standards, people! Alternative fuel vehicles and an autonomous self-driving car market. We’re ready for things to change, but we also know there aren’t many consumers completely ready to give up control and let the car drive itself. It can be a little jarring or surreal, but with the amount of safety that goes into self-driving vehicles, like the Waymo modded Pacifica comes with the latest generation of custom-built radar, LiDAR, and vision systems, and an all-new AI compute platform for safer driving, self-driving vehicles already have a foundation for safety.
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