Fiat may add natural gas engine to the U.S., despite GM and Toyota go electric

Article by Christian Andrei, on December 6, 2010

After having been absent for nearly 30 years, Fiat S.p.A. will re-enter the U.S. market with a treat for its potential customers – the natural gas engine. Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat and Chrysler Group, claims that natural gas engines reduce emissions better since they’re less expensive than other technologies.

He also stated that the electric cars from General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have “too many obstacles” such as the recharge time for batteries.

In an interview, Constantinos Vafidis, who oversees transmission and hybrid development at Fiat's research center in Turin, Italy, said that natural gas is “very suitable” for the U.S., particularly for public services and goods transportation, where refueling of vehicles is done from a central base.

Fiat leads the market in Europe when it comes to natural-gas engines. Fiat has an 80% share of methane-powered cars and 55% of light commercial vehicles.

Notably, the U.S. has abundant reserves. In fact, it was the world’s largest producer of natural gas last year. Giuliano Noci, a professor at the MIP management school of Milan's Polytechnic university, said that Fiat has to be the leader in the natural-gas car market as it's “far behind” in the electric vehicle sector. [via autonews - sub. required]

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