Fiat Chrysler may be circling the drain. For many years, it was led by the late Sergio Macchione, who was a sworn enemy of electric vehicles. As a result, it invested next to nothing in EV technology. As the EV revolution heats up worldwide, FIAT is in danger of being left far behind.
Its latest strategy move is to allocate $2 billion to buy clean vehicle credits from Tesla. While Tesla is happy to take FIAT’s money, that is clearly a “Hail Mary” play designed to buy the company time to figure out what the hell it is going to do next. Sales in Europe have been dismal for 20 years or more and if it weren’t for Dodge Ram pickups and Jeep products, the company probably would have folded years ago.
Now FIAT is cozying up to the PSA Group, whose brands include Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhaul. Peugeot has just unveiled its new electric car, the e 208. During a conference call with investors last week, FIAT’s new CEO, Mike Manley said the company would “absolutely consider using PSA’s electric-vehicle architecture” as the automaker works to meet tougher emissions rules in Europe, according to Bloomberg.
FIAT may still have a pulse but it is faint. It presented the intriguing Centoventi customizable EV concept at Geneva this spring and it is making noises about introducing some plug-in hybrid Jeep products in coming years which may leverage what it has learned from the Pacifica Hybrid program.
It is possible it could simply purchase electric vehicle platforms from other companies, whether it’s PSA or Volkswagen or e.GO. That would make FIAT more of an assembler than a manufacturer, a fate that could be more and more common for other car companies in the years to come. The “skateboard” nature of electric cars makes it easy for one chassis platform to provide the basis of many models for a variety of brands.
For the moment, FIAT is limping along on the strength of the Jeep brand. It’s unlikely that is going to be enough to let the company survive much longer in a world of stricter emissions standards and government mandates. When discussing innovation in the world of automobiles, FIAT is rarely if ever part of the conversation.
A failure to plan leads to a plan for failure, as an old expression suggests. FIAT has steadfastly refused to plan for the future and that obstinacy may be its death knell.