PSA pushing FCA forward on EVs

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Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares is looking forward to 2025.

That’s when he says the company, created in January by the merger of PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, “will be in control of the full value chain” of its electric powertrains.

The company projects that in four years, all the vehicles it sells in the U.S. and Europe will offer some form of electrification. PSA signed a deal last year with French energy company Total to create a joint venture that will begin building battery cells in France and Germany in 2023.

“In terms of electrification, everything we have invested in Europe is a blessing for Stellantis,” Tavares said last week during an earnings call with investors. “The electric motors, the dual-clutch transmission electrified, the battery packs, the battery cells. All of this is going to be available for FCA Europe … and the only thing I can anticipate is that by 2025 — and please remember this — we’ll be very happy by 2025.”

FCA long trailed the industry in electrification, making its name with thirsty muscle cars and powerful pickups. Now it has a plethora of electrified resources at its disposal and is moving into the future under the guidance of Tavares, who is determined to push ahead on EVs, modernize the company with a focus on software and make greater use of artificial intelligence.

Last week’s earnings report showed that both companies came into the merger with solid financial footing. FCA’s North American profits rose 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter, and net income of $1.9 billion for the quarter got the unit back into the black for the year after a dismal first half across the industry.

“The stellar performance demonstrated in Q4 at the FCA family level has contributed immensely to the robust financial position at the birth of Stellantis,” Tavares said. “It’s very important that we kick off Stellantis in a sound position.”

The company’s stability could serve as a springboard into innovation.

Tavares doesn’t want Stellantis to be considered a dinosaur in the technology race, so the company is keying on software advancements as one of its main priorities.

One goal is to have products that are continuously up to date through over-the-air functionality. He said the company wants to “scale up” in the way it uses vehicle data and artificial intelligence.

Stellantis seeks to attract and retain the best talent in the software space. Tavares said talent will come to the automaker because it’s an open-minded company that wants to change things.

“We do not accept to be cornered, we do not accept to be a legacy carmaker, we do not accept to be a dinosaur. We are now preparing for a very strong initiative in terms of software,” Tavares said. “We understand that software is core.”

Tavares said the company counted the number of lines of coding it has in one of its premium plug-in hybrid products. It found around 80 million.

“So needless to say that this is a fantastic sophistication of our products,” Tavares said. “By the way, it is roughly three times more than a midsize airplane, which tells a lot about the complexity of the car industry.”

Tavares said Stellantis will “work aggressively” to improve its corporate fuel economy in the U.S. He expects more demanding emissions protocols under the Biden administration.

“We have all the technologies that we need for that,” Tavares said.

Prior to the merger, PSA was working on its new battery-electric layout, called the Electric Vehicle Modular Platform, that is due out in 2023. It is developing another EV platform for small cars.

It’s too early to tell whether those platforms will make it stateside.

“Are those assets usable in the U.S., with the caveat that they need to be federalized in some of their dimensions? The answer is yes,” Tavares said. “Will we do it? We’ll see. So far, it’s too soon to say. We still have a lot of work to do.”

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