FCA-Renault Merger Could Help EVs, Autonomous Cars Come to America

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【Summary】Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been looking for a partner for years, and may have finally found one with Renault. USA Today outlines the ways the merger could affect the brands’ future when it comes to electric cars and autonomous vehicles.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 01, 2019 6:00 AM PT
FCA-Renault Merger Could Help EVs, Autonomous Cars Come to America

Earlier this May, Jeep came out with two new plug-in hybrid variants of its smallest SUVs, revealing that not even one of America's most profitable brands could avoid the upcoming electric future. There's been a rumor swirling around that Jeep's most iconic vehicle, the Wrangler, is next in line to go down the plug-in hybrid route or even one that includes an all-electric powertrain. While these are just rumors, a potential merger between FCA and French automaker Renault could pave the way forward for an electric Wrangler – or another Jeep.

How Renault Will Help FCA

In a lengthy piece, USA Today outlines a few ways that the potential merger could affect consumers in the U.S. The first way being the introduction of electric vehicles, and the other outlining how autonomous cars are inevitable.

"I think from the FCA side of things, clearly they have been substantially behind" on electric vehicles, Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasting at LMC Automotive, told the outlet. "This definitely gives them access to go through Renault's activity, which has been pretty strong in this area."

In the U.S., FCA lacks the same depth of electrified vehicles as its rivals. Renault could help with that issue by bringing some extra funds to the development table. Instead of having to go all in on its own to come out with new electrified platforms, FCA and Renault would share the costs.

A merger would also mean that FCA would get access to all of Renault's investments in EV technology, which, under former CEO Carlos Ghosn, hoisted the French automaker to become Europe's largest EV manufacturer. At the moment, Renault has four electric vehicles and plans to have a total of eight all-electric cars by 2022. Look at FCA's lineup, and you'll find outdated muscle cars, massive pickup trucks, and thirsty SUVs. There's only one electric car and that's the Fiat 500e with a scant range of 84 miles.

Clearly, FCA needs some help. And Renault could be a partner to lend that helping hand.

What About Autonomous Cars?

Then, there's the aspect of autonomous cars. FCA isn't making nearly the same strides as its American rivals, mainly Ford and General Motors. Sure, FCA supplied Waymo with 62,000 Pacifica minivans to convert into autonomous cars, but it doesn't exactly have the same self-driving companies, personnel, or technology as Ford or GM.

Renault, courtesy of its alliance with Nissan, made plans to work with its Japanese partner to come out with 10 vehicles with autonomous capabilities by 2020. Whether Nissan carries the grunt of that figure or it's an even split remains to be seen, but FCA could get some of the brand's technology and expertise, which would go a long way in jumpstarting its driverless plans.

The company "has limited in-house know-how and has invested less than peers in the space," UBS auto analyst David Lesne earlier this month in a research note to the outlet. FCA is an old-school brand, just take a look at Dodge's ancient lineup, and the move to autonomous technology hasn't served it well. Bringing Renault into the mix could change that, and a lot of other things, too.

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