In 1934, Chrysler became the first American automaker to incorporate improved aerodynamics into the design of its cars. Its first effort was known hopefully as the Airflow, which featured a hideous waterfall grille. The model was a slow seller (no surprise there!) and it went out of production in 1937.
This week at CES 2022, Chrysler dusted off the Airflow name and applied it to a brand new electric SUV concept amidst much ballyhoo about how the company intends to only build battery-electric vehicles come 2028. Notice that commitment says nothing about Dodge — which manufacturers pickup trucks and muscle cars — or Jeep — which offers nothing but off-road capable vehicles in case the Rubicon Trail happens to be the route you need to take to work.
That’s not to say those brands won’t go fully electric someday. In fact, we know that Dodge is working on an electric pickup truck and intends to introduce battery-electric versions of the Charger and Challenger, while Jeep is bringing more plug-in hybrids to market. But to our knowledge, the three brands are a long way from going fully electric by 2028. If we are wrong about that, we know our loyal readers will be quick to inform us of our mistake.
The Airflow Concept
The Airflow Concept Chrysler brought to CES 2022 has garnered a lot of favorable press, but for the moment it is nothing more than vaporware. The company will not state specifically whether it is intended for production, saying only it will have some sort of EV wearing a Chrysler badge on the market by 2025. (There are some other hints about specs in the official photos. See below.)
All Chrysler will say is the Concept will have two 201 horsepower (150 kW) electric motors and a range of 350 to 400 miles. Oh, it will also have Level 3 autonomous driving, the company says, the ability to upgrade software over the air, and programmable screens for each passenger that will allow them to communicate with each other while riding in the car. Phew! Be still my beating heart!
CNET Road Show rather breathlessly praises the car for its sculpted good looks, airy cockpit, and lots of technical geewizardry, including cameras at each passenger seat so everyone can take Zoom calls while driving. It waxes eloquent about the vegetable tanned leather inside and floor mats derived from recyclables. Most of all, it praises the Stallantis STLA Brain Platform, which theoretically will provide the basis for any electric cars forthcoming from Chrysler.
The Airflow is a delightful bit of eye candy. The styling is clean and modern and the interior has lots of space for people and their stuff. Road Show is particularly ecstatic about the “crystalline control dial that looks like a piece of jewelry floating above the center console, adding a bit of richness to the interior.” Well, gee-willikers. If that doesn’t bring customers flocking to Chrysler showrooms, what will?
Is the Airflow Concept a sign that Stellantis has a plan to join the EV revolution in a serious way or just a bit of window dressing while the company struggles to chart a course forward in the brave new world of electric transportation? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
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