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Fiat Chrysler unveils plans for electrification and autonomous vehicles

Fiat Chrysler unveils plans for electrification and autonomous vehicles
Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne said the company will invest EUR 9 billion (USD 10.5 billion) to develop and deploy electric engines as it expands its lineup of electric-powered vehicles, part of an EUR 45 billion (USD 52.4 billion) investment over the next five years focused on four core brands: Jeep SUVs, Ram pickups and Alfa Romeo and Maserati luxury cars.

“This plan will provide the portfolio of products aligned with our brands that will ensure our ability to comply in each region,” with stricter emissions and fuel-economy standards, Marchionne said.

“We live in a time when the speed of change is exponential and we are clearly on the threshold of the biggest revolution in personal transportation since the automobile replaced the horse-and-buggy,” he said. “As we speak, there are many disruptive factors at work and they are reshaping our industry.”

By boosting sales of SUVs and trucks while investing in future technologies, such as electric-powered and self-driving cars, Fiat Chrysler hopes to double operating profit to EUR 16 billion (USD 18.6 billion) by 2022 and reach double-digit profit margins.

In the U.S., the company is expanding its bet on bigger SUVs and trucks, reflecting consumer demand and a more relaxed approach to increasing fuel economy standards in Washington.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Fiat Chrysler said it plans to phase out diesel vehicles by 2021 to meet increasingly stricter emissions rules, as well as halt sales of some mass-market cars, such as the Punto, that won’t be feasible to convert to electric.

The company also plans to be “among the first to offer fully autonomous vehicles to the premium retail market,” said Harald Wester, Fiat Chrysler’s chief technology officer. Fiat Chrysler plans to introduce robotic vehicles for restricted areas by 2023 and fully self-driving vehicles under all driving conditions after 2025.

Last month, FCA US LLC announced that it is beginning discussions about the use of Waymo self-driving technology, including potentially through licensing, in an FCA-manufactured vehicle available to retail customers.

“FCA is committed to bringing self-driving technology to our customers in a manner that is safe, efficient and realistic,” Marchionne said. “Strategic partnerships, such as the one we have with Waymo, will help to drive innovative technology to the forefront.”

Currently, Waymo is the only company with a fleet of fully self-driving cars, with no one in the driver seat, on public roads. Later this year, Waymo will launch the world’s first self-driving transportation service, allowing the public to use Waymo’s app to request a vehicle.

The automaker also said it is pursuing an aggressive growth agenda globally, led by Jeep which will launch three all-new vehicles, including a subcompact for emerging markets and a reintroduced supersize Grand Wagoneer for the U.S. It will also expand electric engine options to all Jeeps, including four fully electric SUVs.

“All models will have a range of electric options” by 2022, said Mike Manley, head of the Jeep and Ram brands.

Fiat Chrysler also said it plans to boost Jeep’s share of the growing global SUV market from nearly 6% of 8 million vehicles today to more than 8% of an estimated 9 million vehicles by 2022.

In addition, the company will add to its truck lineup, by unveiling a new premium version of its mainstay Ram 1500 pickup in the U.S. and a midsize pickup for global markets, as part of a plan to grow Ram truck sales by at least 20% to 930,000 vehicle sales annually by 2022.

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