In a column for Motley Fool last week, veteran auto journalist John Rosevear made this prescient point about Fiat Chrysler's futuristic Chrysler Portal van concept:
"Simply put, the Portal represents an intriguing and advanced potential competitor to Tesla's Model X, one that could turn the market for "kid-hauler' vehicles on its head.
"Or it would, if FCA planned to build it. But the Portal is strictly a show car -- and that's the problem."
He's right. That is the problem for a concept EV minivan which, if stripped of ridiculous features like an integrated selfie camera, instantly makes FCA a player when it comes to alternative powertrains.
The Portal is a six-passenger van with a 100-kilowatt-hour battery and 250 miles of range, capable of adding another 150 miles with a high-power 20-minute charge
But that problem -- that FCA can't or won't build the Portal -- doesn't have to be a problem at all.
As with almost everything else about FCA, the question of whether the Portal is to be or not to be comes down to money and manufacturing capacity.
The money part is not complicated. FCA doesn't have any. It needs more money fast just to shed its debt. So how to do that and fully develop, crash test and certify a moonshot technology leap for a company that still proudly sells the four-speed Dodge Journey?
I don't know. But let's say the Portal does somehow get a green light. Where could FCA build a low-volume, bespoke electric vehicle on its own platform when it doesn't even have space anymore to build its two most recent cars, the now-deceased Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart?
The answer could be Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, the current home of the soon-to-end Dodge Viper.
Conner doesn't have another product slated to follow the Viper when production ends Aug. 31. The Portal could keep the plant open.
And really, could there be a better symbol of progress for FCA than replacing a 640-hp, V-10 Viper with a six-passenger battery-electric minivan?