This story about Sergio Marchionne was first published by Gas2
Sergio Marchionne, the head honcho at Fiat Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari, is a man who has his finger on the pulse of the automotive industry. So you would think he would know a thing or two. But during remarks to the press while receiving an honorary degree from the University of Trento last week, he made it clear he knows almost nothing.
Echoing sentiments often expressed by acolytes of the Koch brothers, Il Patrón Marchionne intoned, “It was always make-believe that electric cars save anything like the amount of CO2 claimed for them. Before we assume electric vehicles are the ultimate answer, we need to consider cradle-to-grave lifecycle.”
Governments around the world — including India, China, France, the UK, and Germany — are making noises about banning cars with internal combustion engines starting as early as 2030. Recently, top executives at Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Honda have all said their companies would transition to cars with electric motors within the next 15 years or so.
But Marchionne believes that going too far too fast will only make carbon dioxide pollution worse, putting the world in greater danger instead of less. He says governments should stop forcing electric cars on people.
His primary objection is that the electricity needed to recharge all those electric cars today comes from coal-fired generating plants that spew copious quantities of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Therefore, more electric cars will inevitably lead to more emissions, not less. Marchionne also used the occasion to reiterate his claim that Fiat loses up to $20,000 on each 500e it sells.
The world would be better off if vehicles were powered by natural gas, conveniently forgetting to mention that natural gas production causes massive amounts of methane emissions — particularly if fracking is involved — and that methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Marchionne is not wrong to suggest that electricity made from burning coal leads to high carbon emissions. That part is true. But he completely overlooks the fact that the world is rapidly switching to renewables like wind and solar and closing or cancelling coal-fired generating stations in record numbers, led by China which is installing massive solar and wind farms throughout the country.
The world is changing and Marchionne is standing in the middle of the road trying his hardest to hold back progress. Legacy automakers are in danger of getting left behind in the dust or possibly going out of business entirely if they don’t adapt to the new realities.
One can easily imagine Marchionne and former Ford boss Mark Fields rocking on the front porch of the Home For Aged Auto Executives one day, sipping an Old Fashioned, and wondering to themselves, “What the hell happened?”
You can watch Marchionne’s remarks in full on Bloomberg by following this link.