Noting that the companies are still in the "investigative phase," a Michigan-based spokesperson for Fiat and Chrysler said the automakers aren't ruling out any alternative transportation fuels for their future marketing efforts in the United States. Natural gas is just one of several options being explored, and electric vehicles (EV) and clean diesel are included in the mix.

An array of factors, including consumer acceptance, availability of fueling infrastructure and many other considerations, are part of the ongoing assessment, according to Vince Muniga, a Chrysler spokesperson who spoke with NGI Wednesday. The increasingly plentiful U.S. natural gas supplies may be one factor, but consumer attitudes toward having a compressed natural gas (CNG) in the trunk of a vehicle is another, Muniga said.

Fiat and Chrysler have no current timeline for deciding which of the alternative fuel options they will pursue. The initial reintroduction of Fiats in the United States with the Fiat 500 models will involve only gasoline-powered versions, Muniga said.

Speculation on a CNG push by Fiat and Chrysler was sparked in recent months as the Italian-based CEO of Fiat SpA and the Chrysler Group LLC touted natural gas vehicles (NGV) as his choice for the kind of clean-fuel vehicles his company eventually plans to introduce in North America. Although the companies made no announcements regarding NGVs, CEO Sergio Marchionne gave a speech to an auto industry meeting in Michigan in June during which he talked bullishly on natural gas, a fuel used extensively in his cars in Europe (see Daily GPI, Dec. 6).

For the time being, however, no alternative fuel has been ruled out, Muniga said. "We're really just in the investigative stage right now. We haven't decided to put anything in vehicles or which vehicles we would use alternatives in."

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