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CHRYSLER FIRST TO SELL CNG VANS, OTHER ALTERNATE-FUEL VEHICLES DESPITE UNCERTAINTY OF MARKET, REGULATORY CLIMATE

 CHRYSLER FIRST TO SELL CNG VANS, OTHER ALTERNATE-FUEL VEHICLES
 DESPITE UNCERTAINTY OF MARKET, REGULATORY CLIMATE
 AUSTIN, Texas, April 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Chrysler Corporation (NYSE: C) said today it is poised to become the first major auto company to market alternate-fuel vehicles at the retail level, including the most environment-friendly vehicle now available with full factory warranty.
 The company cautioned, however, that its efforts could be hampered by an inadequate refueling network and possible last-minute regulatory restrictions.
 Chrysler officials, here to preview a variety of its alternate-fuel vehicles to be shown at the April 12-14 Alternative Vehicle Fuels Market Fair and Symposium at the Palmer Auditorium, described the company as being "fuel neutral" -- offering vehicles to run on one of several different fuels.
 Among the several vehicles Chrysler will display are two 1992 Dodge B-250 model full-size passenger/cargo vans converted in factory production to operate exclusively on compressed natural gas (CNG).
 The first of 2,500 CNG-fueled vans Chrysler plans to manufacture this year began rolling off company assembly lines in March. That number could be expanded if demand warrants, company officials said.
 Chrysler engineers contend the Dodge CNG vans are environmentally the "cleanest" vehicles with internal combustion engines -- car, truck or van -- for sale to the public today, meaning their emissions levels are the lowest of any such vehicles currently on the market.
 The vans, featuring Chrysler's new 5.2-liter Magnum V-8 engine adapted to run on natural gas, will be available shortly for sale in 49 states, with California approval pending. The federal government already has purchased and received delivery of 76 of these CNG units.
 All Dodge "factory conversion" CNG vehicles will carry Chrysler's 7-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
 For the most part, these Dodge CNG vans are being targeted for fleet use, such as urban utilities, small-package haulers and other light haulers, said Richard O. Geiss, Chrysler executive engineer for truck engine systems. However, they also can be purchased by individual consumers through Dodge dealerships.
 The primary reason that fleet service is forecast as the most practical use for CNG vehicles is an inadequate refueling network exists to supply CNG to individual owners.
 Geiss noted that the company's announcement here was coincident with the opening this week of the first two retail CNG stations in the Austin area, perhaps the first of this type public refueling operation in Texas.
 Overall, Chrysler officials said the company is confident its alternative fuels vehicle development will contribute to the nation's efforts to improve air quality and energy conservation.
 "That's why Chrysler is proceeding on all fronts to develop natural gas vehicles, methanol flexible-fuel vehicles and electric vehicles," said Gordon Allardyce, the company's manager of environmental and energy regulatory planning. "We're placing our bets on all the numbers in our quest for cleaner modes of transportation."
 Chrysler, said Allardyce, is committed to establishing a position of industry leadership over its competitors -- U.S., European and Japanese -- in alternate-fuels programs.
 He said that while Chrysler is ready to sell natural gas vehicles and flexible-fuel cars to the public, other major manufacturers are still in the development stage.
 Chrysler's aggressive stance is not without its risks, concluded Allardyce.
 "As we bring our alternate-fuel products to market, we are finding that customers aren't quite ready to accept these innovative cars and trucks," he observed. "In part, this is because we caught them by surprise. No one anticipated this surge in new technology products from Chrysler."
 Allardyce cited the lack of an adequate refueling infrastructure as a major deterrent to consumer acceptance of alternate-fuel vehicles, even though market research indicates customers want these alternate- fuel vehicles.
 Allardyce lauded several states, including Texas, for helping create, "a new spirit of cooperation between industry and government" in making alternate-fuel vehicles available to the public.
 "It is essential, however, for government agencies to avoid the urge to impose last-minute requirements, no matter how well-intentioned, on our fledgling alternative-vehicle programs," Allardyce cautioned.
 "We need sufficient lead time to incorporate new features, especially while we are in the process of consolidating our progress. Our limited resources are stretched very thin as we cope with many complex regulations for emissions, safety and fuel economy. A breathing spell is needed."
 To demonstrate the success of its alternative-fuel vehicles development program, the company today rolled out vehicles powered by two separate energy sources:
 -- The full-size 1992 Dodge passenger/cargo vans converted to run exclusively on compressed natural gas (CNG).
 -- A Plymouth Voyager minivan also converted to run on CNG.
 -- Two 1992 Dodge Spirit sedans designed to operate on a flexible- fuel blend of 85-percent methanol and 15-percent unleaded gasoline (M-85).
 Chrysler plans to market 2,000 of its 1993 model FFV Spirit Acclaim models -- at no price premium -- through Dodge and Plymouth dealerships in California beginning next fall. These will be in addition to 2,500 FFV Spirits and Acclaims on order by the federal government.
 Regarding electric-vehicle development, Chrysler said it recently entered into a joint research program with Westinghouse Electric Corporation aimed at developing a new propulsion system that will nearly double the rate of vehicle acceleration and driving range between battery charges.
 The goal, said company officials, is to develop an electric vehicle that can accelerate from 0-60 MPH in 15 seconds and travel upward of 200 miles between charges.
 Chrysler already has electric-powered vans well along in development. These vehicles have a range of more than 100 miles between charges.
 -0- 4/10/92
 /CONTACT: Jason Vines or Tom Kowaleski of Chrysler, 313-956-5346/
 (C) CO: Chrysler Corporation ST: Michigan, Texas IN: AUT SU:


DH -- DE007 -- 7170 04/10/92 11:05 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 10, 1992
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