Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said Saturday that the auto industry will need to meet proposed 54.5 mpg standards by 2025, and can do so despite NADA's opposition to the proposal.
"This standard is 14 years out," he told reporters after delivering a 30-minute keynote address to the NADA convention here. "If you start giving up on projects that are 14 years out, we might as well choose another occupation."
The globe-trotting CEO said it was the first time he has set foot in Las Vegas.
During the address and in remarks afterward, Marchionne, 59, also said:
• Chrysler would maintain flexibility and transparency as it overhauls its suspended Dealer Standards program, saying all automakers "have to go beyond a system where the manufacturer issues top-down edicts" to dealers.
• Pricing transparency on the Internet means "price negotiating is being taken out of [dealers'] hands, and it is a trend that will only continue."
• Chrysler's two-minute advertisement on Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast would be "unconventional" and would reflect "what Chrysler is today, how we view our role in society, our passion and our love for this country." But he refused to reveal or confirm any other details. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that iconic actor/director Clint Eastwood would be appearing in the ads, giving a pep talk to the nation.
Marchionne received a standing ovation from a contingent of Chrysler dealers as he was introduced by outgoing NADA Chairman Stephen Wade.
During his remarks, Marchionne spoke glowingly of Chrysler's dealers, and of auto dealers in general, and told a receptive audience that he was aware that they were responsible for the industry's comeback.
"We have been receiving accolades in the press," Marchionne said, "but the truth is that Chrysler itself didn't sell a single car to consumers. It was Chrysler dealers who moved the metal, one vehicle at a time."
Touting CNG cars
The Chrysler-Fiat CEO touted his Italian company's technology in developing compressed natural gas vehicles. He said that CNG technology exists today that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles by 25 percent over other fossil fuels, and that fueling infrastructure already largely exists to support its wider-spread use in the United States.
"I think it would be an interesting way to shift the reliance on foreign oil," Marchionne told reporters after his remarks. He said commercial users would be a natural place for CNG vehicles to take hold in the United States.
"I can make them faster than you can think, but you have to have people that are going to buy them," Marchionne said. "We're going to start showing the product, and then we'll see if people are going to take them."