Tim Kuniskis, who presides over Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ premium Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands, says the two brands have Tesla Motors in their crosshairs with their new respective electrification strategies. FCA has historically been much more averse to powertrain electrification than competing global automotive giants, with CEO Sergio Marchionne suggesting as recently as January that big, multi-billion-dollar investments in electrification and autonomy are a tad imprudent.
The automaker changed its tune quite dramatically in June when it announced a $10.5-billion bid on electrification across all Fiat Chrysler brands, with Jeep, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo playing pivotal roles. “Everything gets electrified,” FCA’s Head of Maserati and Alfa Romeo told NBCNews in an exclusive interview. “Look at our product portfolio and you see we’re going after Tesla,” he said, except that the two brands he leads have no plans to introduce a $35k competitor to the Model 3.
Just about every major global automaker is turning to electrification as a means to meet ever-stricter emissions standards around the world, but the technology isn’t cheap, so “compliance cars” – inexpensive, mass-market EV offerings – have a tendency of generating little to no profit. At one time, FCA was losing more than $10k for every pure-electric Fiat 500E it sold, as a matter of fact, leading Sergio Marchionne to implore consumers not to buy one.
But expensive luxury and performance cars have an advantage: their higher-than-average margins give automakers more of a fighting chance of turning a profit even with the added expense of electrified powertrains. Plus, the technology often brings with it an inherent performance advantage over traditional internal combustion engines, meaning Maserati and Alfa Romeo – and indeed, many of their competitors – can rightfully charge more for electrified models.
High-end electrified FCA vehicles will “have a performance advantage” over their ICE counterparts, Tim Kuniskis confirmed, allowing them to occupy the top-most rungs of the “performance ladder” and command higher prices. In addition to relying less on petrol, range-topping electrified models from Maserati and Alfa Romeo are “going to give you more horsepower and quicker 0 to 60 times,” the brand head told NBCNews.