Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chyrsler, recently sat down with CAR Magazine to talk about the automotive industry over some lunch. A snippet of the chat revealed that, despite Tesla’s recent success with the Model 3 reveal, he doesn’t think electric cars will pan out in the future.
Fiat Chrysler is the seventh-largest automotive manufacturer behind Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagen Group, Hyundai, Ford, and Nissan. All six of these companies have each pivoted billions of dollars in resources and research towards the development of alternate-fuel technologies like hydrogen power and electrification.
And yet the boss of Fiat Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, still isn’t convinced that electric cars are a rational replacement for the ICE-powered automobile, as he reiterated in a recent conversation with CAR Magazine.
Full disclosure, I do not have a membership with Car Magazine and thus can’t read the full text, but the final paragraph of what is made available online reveals enough to show Marchionne’s interesting perspective on the state of electrification in the auto industry.
Here’s the snippet from CAR:
In fact [Tesla] created an icon, just like Apple did with its iconic iPhone. Is this not an approach FCA could mimic?
‘Welcome to the world of icons!’ quips Marchionne. ‘I don’t make iPhones. I make cars. Why don’t I make the iPhone of cars? Because if it looks and smells like Tesla, I don’t know how to make that economic model work. There is nothing Tesla do that we cannot also do. We build cars, sell them and are still able to pay the bills. But I’m not even sure you can recover all of your costs – let alone generate a profit – through electrification. The answer is bound to be somewhere else, and the question is whether we are doing enough to try to explore that somewhere else.’
I’m extremely curious as to what “answer” Marchionne is looking to find, as hydrogen power is on the way out and Tesla’s recent reveal of the compact fully-electric Model 3 resulted in over 300,000 deposits and a rise in the stock value of the company.
I mention hydrogen power because it’s the only other alternative fuel option that’s been seriously vetted by major automakers alongside electrification. With the success of Tesla causing a shift in the rest of the industry, hydrogen seems to be losing.
Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are the most rational option for our projected future of fleets of autonomous cars, as you wont have the foundation (the cars) of these new ride services motionless for hours on end getting a charge. Instead you just refuel them as you would a current ICE vehicle and send them back out.
The issue with hydrogen is the amount of excess energy it takes to collect, store and transport for use as an alternative fuel. As Elon Musk once pointed out, hydrogen better serves as an energy storage mechanism, and not a source of energy.