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Chrysler Group CEO Reiterates Focus on Diesel and Biofuels

In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Chrysler Group President and CEO Tom LaSorda called for government and industry leaders to address two major current issues facing the automotive industry: currency and energy.

On the energy front, LaSorda described the key forces shaping energy policy at the national level as the “4 Gs: God, Guns, Growth and Greens.”

God: as in “acts of God” such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita that expose the fragile state of domestic oil refinement capability. Guns: as in the undue influence many fear our dependence on Middle Eastern oil wields over foreign policy (by providing an economic base for terrorism and resulting in the need for military interventions). Growth: as in the dramatic growth of the economies of China and India that is driving up global demand for oil. Greens: as in the pressures to reduce emissions, and respond to the issue of climate change.

Ultimately, an effective response to all of the above boils down to this: Use less oil. More cleanly and efficiently burn the petroleum-based fuels we do use. Find alternatives. And do it all without adversely affecting the economy.

Clearly, the federal government, and not just the auto industry, has a leading role to play in achieving those goals.

After briefly noting progress being made on long-term development of fuel cell technology and hydrogen infrastructure via the private-public partnerships, LaSorda focused on near-term solutions, and focused on three primary technology platforms: hybrids, diesels, and biofuels.

Crediting Toyota, Honda and Ford for taking the lead in bringing hybrids to the US market, LaSorda noted the co-development of the two-mode full hybrid architecture with GM and BMW, and stated again that Chrysler will introduce a hybrid version of the Durango in the 2008 model year.

He then moved on to spend most of his remaining remarks on the topic of diesels and biofuels, including noting the recent BLUETEC announcements (earlier post).

In 2005, about two-thirds of the Chrysler and Jeep vehicles that we sold in Europe were diesel powered. If Chrysler Group’s diesel mix in the US were the same as it is in Europe, our CAFE would improve by three miles per gallon!

[...] While diesel technology alone can make big strides toward helping us meet our national energy, environment, and security objectives, when you add biodiesel and other biofuels, it gets really interesting.

We think biofuels are a win-win proposition. Biofuels represent a huge opportunity to reduce our consumption of conventional petroleum-based fuel (and our dependence on foreign oil). Biofuels reduce lifecycle CO2 (greenhouse gas) emissions, because the plants from which they’re derived absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during growth. Biofuels reduce tailpipe emissions of particulates, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons compared with conventional diesel fuel. And biofuels support the American agricultural economy.

On the ethanol side, LaSorda noted that Chrysler’s current product plan calls for about 25% of total production by 2008 to be flexible-fuel vehicles (capable of burning either gasoline or E85).

Back here at home, our current product plan commits us to producing, by the 2008 model year, just under 500,000 flexible fuel vehicles annually for our U.S. fleet. That’s roughly 25 percent of our production. If all of them were operated on E-85 instead of gasoline, it would save 250 million gallons of petroleum per year—roughly the amount of oil we import from Libya each year.

Oil companies can re-invent themselves, too—much as the automotive industry has in recent years. Investing in the growing biodiesel and flex fuel infrastructure would be a smart move for oil companies—both for their own growth, and for our country’s energy independence.



Mr. LaSorda said: "We think biofuels are a win-win proposition. ... Biofuels reduce lifecycle CO2 (greenhouse gas) emissions, because the plants from which they’re derived absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during growth."

Biodiesel will not be "win-win" without careful consideration of the source of the fuel and the processes used to make it. Biodiesel coming from soybeans grown on recently-cleared Brazilian rainforest or palm oil from recently-cleared Indonesian rainforest will have a significantly negative carbon balance (see EU must ensure that bioenergy is really green, for example). All biodiesel is not equivalent (from food crops vs. from waste oil), and all uses of biodiesel are not equivalent (trading in your 2005 Honda Civic for a 1974 Mercedes vs. fueling a bus fleet with B20). The trade-offs are many and should be kept in plain sight.


The only objectives mentioned with a date associated with them is the introduction of a hybrid Durango and flex fuel vehicles. I think once again they missed the mark. How about a family sized diesel vehicle that gets 40mpg? How about the diesel cars they sell in Europe? Make the needed changes for DOT and EPA and I'll buy one.


LaSorda needs to subtract petroleum consumption required to produce ethanol to arrive at oil savings. Chrysler and others want us to believe this is one big free so we can avoid the necessary actions to conserve, whether we're conserving petroleum or ethanol.

Suman M Subramanian

The fact that the CEO of a US auto manufacturer is so enthusiastic about biofuels is a very positive sign. Like Rich, I'd like to see some of Chrysler's European diesel options (e.g. PT Cruiser, 300, others) available here. As low-sulfur diesel & biodiesel become more widely available, hopefully more buyers will show a similar interest, and hopefully the Big Three will respond with more diesel choices in cars too & not just trucks. While they're at it, I hope they enable full B100 compatibility.


Lasorda is simply being a salseman for the company and following a big rule: Sale what you have or can easily make(IC engines running on different fuels), AND do not sale what you don't have(zero emission cars).
He needs to lead by stating that we need to keep the dirty stuff in the ground(oil and coal) and that our goal should cars with no exhaust pipes!
(okay, at least save the oil to make tires)


It is all well and good what Chrysler is trying to achieve for 2008.
What about right now?
I currently own a PT Cruiser. I am seriously looking into purchasing a more efficient vehicle - say a Smart Car or VW Golf - both diesel fuel cars.
If Chrysler were to put the diesel engine into the PT Cruiser I would seriously consider it.
If they have these vehicles for Europe they should also make them available here in Canada as well!
2008 is a little too late. Right now would be good for many!


Addressing the issue at his level inwhich people will hear it is great. We all know it takes a lot of energy to produce Ethanol. Diesels and Biodiesel are a great solution to a problem we have now. Both are also available now. If we put the farmers in this country to work growing oil seed crops instead of paying them not to farm, that is a huge plus. Not to mention the work that is being done with Algae.
Carbon neutral, American energy source, american farmers making more money, our dollars stay here and the amount of eneryg it takes to produce a gallon is about a little less that a third of that it takes to produce Ethanol.

Phil Kicksee

I own a PT-CRUISER, a GRAND CARAVAN SPORT and a HEMI 4X4 QUAD CAB PICKUP and I wish all three were a diesel. The only diesel pickup available here in Canada has the big cummins and is a 3/4 ton and up which is just too big and expensive for the average guy who doesnt need a work truck.
My self I think it would be smart to offer the diesel option in all of their models of cars, trucks and vans.
We have all seen a few diesel rabbits and mercedes around here for years but the complaints were always the same. No parts or service!
Besides, Out here in the west we drive pickups!
About one quarter of the pickup market would be for work trucks and a majority of them are currently diesel.
A smaller diesel pickup, maybe even front wheel drive would sell like hot cakes here........If any body is listening!?!?!


i am on my second pt a stage 1 turbo. when can i expect a diesel pt to be available i alsays by chrystler but am looking at a vw jetta diesel. i would wqait if i knew a diesel pt wase coming soon please let me know as i can not get any information from the dealer i live in canada

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