Fiat CEO urges car shoppers not to buy 500e

by Ronan Glon
Fiat CEO urges car shoppers not to buy 500e

The automaker reportedly loses $14,000 on every 500e it sells.

Fiat - Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has openly asked car shoppers not to buy or lease the Fiat 500e, an all-electric version of the city car designed exclusively to comply with California's strict Zero-Emissions-Vehicle mandate.

"If you are considering buying a 500e, I hope you don't buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000. I'm honest enough to tell you that," said Marchionne during a press conference held at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC.

Introduced at the 2012 edition of the Los Angeles Motor Show, the 500e was expensive to develop so it retails for $32,650 before government incentives are factored in, nearly twice the price of a stock 500. Fiat has not revealed how many examples of the 500e it has sold to date but the number is likely low because the pint-sized EV is only offered in California.

Marchionne also cast doubts on the viability of electric cars from a business point of view. He explained that Tesla is the only automaker capable of making money by selling battery-powered cars because it competes in the luxury segment and charges a high price for the Model S. Economy cars generally have smaller profit margins so it is difficult for manufacturers to recoup the costs of designing and building costly electric drivetrains.

"If we just build those vehicles, we'll be back asking ... in Washington for a second bailout because we'll be bankrupt," said the executive.

Although pure EVs will not be a major part of the Fiat - Chrysler lineup in the near future, the automaker is developing a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain that will make its debut on the all-new 2016 Town & Country minivan. The technical details are vague, but Fiat - Chrysler has confirmed the drivetrain will gradually make its way other members of its lineup before the end of the decade.