Around a year ago, Chrysler announced three models that made up its ENVI lineup, specifically the Dodge Circuit EV (a 2 seat, BEV sports car), a 40 mile extended range Jeep Patriot and a 40 mile extended range Town & Country van. Two others, a Jeep Wrangler and a concept sedan would follow in the next few months.
Chrysler had promised to bring at least one of these models to market in 2010, and three more models before the end of 2012. However by May of this year, the Pentastar found itself in bankruptcy protection, and control was shifted away from the existing Chrysler executive to Italian automobile maker Fiat.
Since then it is fair to say that information and updates have been very un-GM like from Chrysler, as in, non-existent. Checking out Chrysler's ENVI blog (at time of press), you will find the last entry dated May 7th, 2009, around the same time it when into Chapter 11.
This seemingly 'all-stop' directive did not hinder Chrysler from still going forward with applying to the Department of Energy for a $448 million dollar grant.
That grant was to produce 365 test fleet vehicles, and would provide seed money to establish a new technology and manufacturing center in Michigan, which would amongst other things develop, test and manufacture EV components and serve as a base for final assembly of ENVI products. It was said at the time, that the facility would produce 20,000 vehicles a year and would be operating in 2010.
Similar to GM's also still outstanding applications to the DoE, the Chrysler's application has not yet been approved.
GM-Volt got in contact with Chrysler spokesperson (and Technology PR guy) Nick Cappa about the DoE loan proposal and status, and he offer the following, "We continue to work closely with the DOE on the review process for our loan proposal. We are making progress." Not a terribly informative update to be sure...but on the bright side, the inquiry did not incur any long distance telephones charges to GM-Volt.com.
Unlike GM's well documented, and ever accelerating ramp to production with the Volt, it appears that Chrysler's progress had been tied directly to achieving government support.
So, has ENVI been scrapped, or put on long-term hiatus? Certainly no one at Chrysler is talking. However, after a half a year of darkness, the tumbleweeds will likely be cleared away and that question answered on November 4th. That is when Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne introduces the world to the Chrysler Group's new "5 year plan" at a epically long SIX HOUR media fiesta. (Hopefully they provide dinner on that flight)
It is a good bet to assume that the 'new' to US, 2011 Fiat 500 mini-car, which is to be built at a Chrysler plant in Mexico will also underpin a re-engineered/re-badged electric offering for Chrysler. But what of the ENVI program? With Chrysler under new management, we may find that only survivor from the 'old' Chrysler EV program will be the Dodge Circuit, as it is much further down the developmental road than its peers.
When asked if there had been any new developments and/or why there had not been any news of late, Mr. Kappa alluded to forthcoming news, "Nothing about our EV programs to announce today, but stay tuned. Lots of activity here."
/and so we wait