By Charles Borsos
BU News Service
LAS VEGAS — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) unveiled a concept car, dubbed the “Portal,” at a news conference at CES in Las Vegas, Nev., on Tuesday aimed at the growing millennial car-buying market and their growing families.
The Portal’s project manager, Ashley Edgar, recalled Chrysler’s previous innovations in developing the minivan in the 1980s and said this new vehicle will be the right one for millennials because it meets millennial-specific needs and “because… babies.”
In essence, it is an electric minivan that FCA designed to be “modular and flexible,” both physically and in regard to its incorporation of technology. Seats can be added or taken away, autonomous capability can be installed, and the interior is rife with touch screens and places to plug in cell phones or devices.
In terms of the aesthetics of the concept, being able to seat up to six people means that it still has the general shape of a minivan. However, FCA ditched the usual sliding door and instead designed the entryway as a “portal.” The front and rear doors open away from each other and FCA says they were able to eliminate the B-pillar (the large metal cross member usually between car doors) which grants the Portal a wide open entry.
FCA designer Emilio Feliciano said the design team tried to bring a lot of light into the car’s design. The Portal still follows the modern trend of “high-waisted” windows and added more glass into the roof.
The Portal is a front-wheel drive electric vehicle. The battery pack at the bottom of the car has 100-kilowatt capacity, allowing it to travel 250 miles before needing a recharge. The power of the single electric motor was not listed at the unveiling. While Edgar said that the electric motor does provide plenty of torque, for millennials “smart is the new sexy,” and FCA did not see speed or power as a focus for that demographic.
FCA is the first auto company to reveal a concept car at CES 2017. They said repeatedly that their focus was on the millennial market, with Edgar saying the Portal “was designed by millennials for millennials.” It will be interesting to see what trends the likes of Toyota and Hyundai reveal over the next few days at CES.