DETROIT -- The United States must collaborate with carmakers on alternative powertrains and new energy sources for the domestic auto industry or face losing out to foreign interests, said Jim Press, Chrysler co-president.
Were worried about dependence on foreign oil now, he said. If you fast forward 15 years, are we going to trade dependence on foreign oil to dependence on foreign battery suppliers?
A $50 billion proposed package of federal loans under consideration in Congress can help automakers and suppliers develop those technologies in the United States, he told reporters today at a luncheon here.
Press said its inaccurate to refer to the proposed loans as a free bailout because it was part of last years energy bill.
To us, its a way to accelerate the development of technology and put it into the hands of the customer who can afford it, he said.
Chrysler, which showed three alternative powertrain concept cars at the 2008 Detroit auto show, will display another such vehicle in Detroit at the 2009 show in January, he said.
Press predicted Chryslers situation would stabilize in 2010, when it will introduce seven vehicles. Gone will be the overlapping nameplates Chrysler now develops for its three brands.
Press cited the example of Chryslers twin minivans, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan. In the future, the two products could be separated in the marketplace. One minivan might be built as a vehicle for younger consumers, while the other could retain traditional minivan attributes. He did not say which vehicle Chrysler might eliminate.
Chrysler is betting on electric power, hybrids and advanced gasoline engines, he said.
Diesel is not going to have the same future as gas, said Press. As government emissions requirements get stricter, gasoline engines can be engineered to comply more easily because they dont need the same aftertreatment as diesel. Press said that advanced gasoline engines will duplicate all the good qualities of diesel, including high torque.