Fiat is the market leader in Europe in natural-gas engines, with an 80 percent share of methane-powered cars and 55 percent of light commercial vehicles, with sales of 127,000 methane-powered cars last year, including versions of the Panda compact and Ducato van. The OEM will re-enter the U.S. next year, and targets sales of 50,000 of the 500 compact in the market.
United States currently ranks 14th in the world in sales of natural gas vehicles, while Italy is sixth, according to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles. Marchionne hopes to boost the American figure. “We’ve had contact with the U.S. and Canadian governments and both countries have become more interested after the recent discoveries of shale-gas reserves in the region,” added Fiat Powertrain’s director Lucio Bernard.