Fiat Chrysler CEO Seeks to Strengthen Ties With Google – Wall Street Journal
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
NV Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said Friday he is open to deepening a new partnership with Alphabet Inc.
’s Google autonomous-car team, but said it is unclear if the Silicon Valley tech giant is willing to forge stronger ties.
Mr. Marchionne, speaking at factory in Canada, said Fiat Chrysler is seeking collaborations with tech companies instead of independently funding significant bets on projects that might not pan out.
“We are exploring with people who are willing to explore with us,” he said, referring to deepening ties to the point of codeveloping new, autonomous vehicles from the wheels up.
Google declined to comment. The company has said in the past it wants to partner with many auto makers.
Fiat Chrysler earlier this week said it would supply dozens of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Google, and the two companies will collaborate on integrating self-driving technology so the vehicles can be tested on public roads. Most of Fiat Chrysler’s bigger rivals have taken a different route, steering around Google and spending heavily to develop their own technology for autonomous cars or other future technologies.
Mr. Marchionne has been an advocate of more partnerships or mergers in the auto industry as a way to boost scale and better deploy capital.
General Motors Co.
is among the companies going a different direction, spending heavily to develop its own autonomous-vehicle technology. The No. 1 U.S. auto maker will within a year test autonomous electric taxis with Lyft Inc., a company in which GM invested $500 million in January.
To keep technology in-house and accessible, rather than rely on an independent partner like Google, GM paid $1 billion to acquire a small company doing similar autonomous-vehicle work. Mr. Marchionne called moves like the one GM is making a “dangerous bet.”
Fiat Chrysler has been courting GM and other auto makers for a potential merger for more than a year, but has come up empty-handed. Mr. Marchionne’s chances of having deeper integration with Google are also murky.
“Whether they want to take this another step is unclear to me,” Mr. Marchionne said, adding that he has ridden in Google’s driverless vehicle and felt safe. “It is also unclear if we can become more formal partners.”
Separately, Mr. Marchionne said production of a new Ram pickup truck model should start at the Sterling Heights, Mich., plant in the first quarter of 2018. Meanwhile, production of the Jeep Cherokee at the Belvidere, Ill., factory could start as early as the fourth quarter of 2017.
Earlier this year, Mr. Marchionne said he would end production of the Chrysler 200 at the Sterling Heights plant and drop the Dodge Dart from the Belvidere plant to make more room for Jeep and pickup truck production. Mr. Marchionne said he is looking for a partner to help build the Dart and 200 to lower costs.
—Michael Ramsey contributed to this article.
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