Fiat Chrysler Automobiles turned in its best quarter ever for the first three months of 2017, and CEO Sergio Marchionne was in a good mood on the company’s call with investors.
Marchionne has been an outspoken critic of electric vehicles, arguing that nobody wants to buy them and that he loses money on the ones that FCA does produce.
But he seems to be more excited about self-driving tech, as FCA’s expanding partnership with Google’s Waymo demonstrates.
This week, Waymo announced that it’s sending 500 additional Chrysler Pacifica minivans to its Arizona self-driving fleet — and inviting the public to take some rides.
On the earnings call, Marchionne was asked by Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas why the CEO said “Yes” to joining with Google/Waymo when everyone else seemed to be saying “No.”
Marchionne was quick to tout Waymo’s competitive advantage, arguing that the project would be “substantially ahead” of other players once the tech giant begins to commercialize its autonomous systems.
“That’s the bet we’ve taken,” Marchionne said. He added that Waymo will ultimately have an “unbeatable solution.”
Marchionne’s enthusiasm for self-driving might contrast with his electric-car skepticism, but he’s on point with a major change in the future-of-transportation narrative. From around 2010 until a year or two ago, it was all about EVs. But the big story now is self-driving.
Marchionne’s obviously understands that he already builds hundreds of thousands of vehicles, including Pacificas, that run on gas and that could be updated to drive themselves. No electric innovation required.
That’s why he really likes his bet on Google.