Chrysler Group LLC is considering whether to add compressed natural-gas powered engines to its Ram truck brand, according to Fred Diaz, head of the Ram brand, who was interviewed at the Chicago Auto Show. The market leader in Europe for engines using compressed natural gas (CNG) is Fiat SpA, which holds a 25% stake in Chrysler.
Fiat has an 80% share of CNG-powered cars and 55% of light commercial vehicles. Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of both automakers, said that since natural-gas engines are cheaper than rival technologies, reducing emissions using this method is highly attractive.
Diaz said that if CNG “becomes the new in-thing for alternative fuel going forward,” then Chrysler will be far ahead of the others.
It was in 2009 that the U.S. became the world's largest producer of natural gas. Diaz said that the Ram brand may experiment with vehicles sold to fleet customers, which would get their own fueling station.
Diaz didn’t talk about a timeline or say which Ram models will be powered by the new engine. Phil Gott, an IHS Automotive analyst in Lexington, Mass., said that in the near term, the market is limited to fleet vehicles because of the lack of fueling stations in the U.S.
The International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles said that the U.S. ranks 14th worldwide when it comes to sales of natural gas vehicles while Italy takes the No. 6 spot. But with 2.3 million vehicles and 3,068 fueling stations, Pakistan reigns supreme at No. 1. [via autonews - sub. required]