Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said on Saturday that he had visited with Tesla, Apple and Google during a recent trip to California.
Marchionne, speaking on the sidelines of the opening of a Maserati dealership near Toronto, said he had met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk, among others, on the trip, during which he rode in Google’s self-driving car.
“I’m incredibly impressed with what that kid has done,” he said, referring to Musk.
The titans of Silicon Valley have been hosting other international dignitaries recently, including Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited with Elon Musk and took a ride in a Tesla Model S earlier this month.
What’s notable about Marchionne’s pow-wow with Tesla, Apple and Google is Fiat Chrysler has just started to wade into the world of green car technology.
Fiat bought shares of Chrysler from the US Treasury back in 2011, a time when Chrysler was barely bouncing back from the throes of another downturn.
A failed partnership with Daimler AG (then DaimlerChrysler), a bankruptcy filing in 2009, and an ageing slate of vehicles that American buyers quickly lost interest in meant the brand was struggling to regain its footing in the US.
The Fiat-Chrysler merger effectively launched Chrysler back into the American luxury car space, but it also gave Fiat new gusto to introduce fresh products, like the Fiat 500e. The battery-powered version of the 500 hatchback debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2012, and went on sale in California in summer 2013, before rolling out to other states later. About 645 of them were sold that year.
Though Fiat Chrysler initially appeared hesitant to wade into the hybrid/electric market, it stands to reason that the company may want to explore further opportunities in this space, if not with a new model of its own, perhaps through a partnership with one of the established giants like Tesla, Google or Apple — which has been rumoured to be developing a car.
It wouldn’t be the first time Fiat’s Marchionne floated such a big idea.
(Reuters reporting by Allison Martell)
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