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Automakers are finding more ways to connect with their consumer base by making use of the modern technology popping up and quickly picked up by the same consumer base. Nearly everyone today knows how to operate a smartphone or smart device, and science is working towards artificial intelligence and virtual assistants. Heck, ever since Siri on the iPhone, people started talking to their phones, and now the same company that is the major supplier of iPhones and many more brand-name consumer devices is partnering up with Stellantis to make something great.
Stellantis, the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the PSA Group are heading into a new and different direction. There is a fork in the road, and we worry that the new automotive group may stretch itself too thin. Back in 2018, when FCA was still FCA, the automotive group invested $30 Million into reshaping the Chelsea Proving Grounds in Southeast Michigan into an autonomous vehicle testing facility. The addition of a 6,500 square-foot command center to design and test prototype autonomous vehicles via computer remotely; a test track consisting of tunnels, obstacles, on-and-off ramps, and conditions; and a 5-acre paved testing area for parking and emergency braking systems were the upgrades announced to work towards retail self-driving vehicles.
Where are they?
In another direction, Stellantis is going green, and its line with other plans by FCA when announcing its plans for future models. Finally going electric after the late Sergio Marchionne set the foundation for moving into alternative fuel production. Just a few years later, Jeep made good on its promises to build a hybrid or electrified version of each vehicle in its lineup. In 2020, the Jeep Compass 4xe, Jeep Renegade 4xe, and Jeep Wrangler 4xe were announced – plug-in hybrid versions of each. The Dodge Durango Hybrid will soon follow.
So, what’s next? Another path many automakers are already successfully working Stellantis on are connectivity and car-connected services. Kia Motors is currently working with Google and designed a new Kia Service activated via the Google Voice Assistant. Connected to a cloud, all local data is updated in real-time, and consumers can do a number of things with simple voice commands. Mitsubishi Motors released the Mitsubishi Connect App, a piece of tech constantly updated and added onto that makes it easier for consumers to check on their vehicle’s health, schedule maintenance, and receive help.
Stellantis can’t fall too far behind. That’s why recently, Stellantis entered into a joint venture with Taiwan’s Foxconn. Who is Foxconn? Why, it’s only the company that helped to develop if not the sole developer of the BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Kindle, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, Nokia devices, Xiaomi devices, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and several CPU sockets. 40-percent of all consumer electronics in the world is manufactured by Foxconn. With a hand in creating all these things, being able to bring similar tech into automobiles should be easy.
Foxconn is a power player, and Stellantis is working with them on the project, Mobile Drive. With a focus on creating technology that will help vehicles stay more connected to their consumers and vice versa, smart devices and virtual assistants are just the beginning. With Foxconn, Stellantis will be working on services such as infotainment, the integration of telecommunications and computer systems, artificial intelligence-based applications, 5G communications, e-commerce channels, and smart cockpit integration. Through a Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI), consumers will be able to interact with their vehicles in all new ways.
Stellantis is rocking the boat and making a lot of changes. We hope the merger wasn’t the first crack in the ice. Follow along and see what Stellantis does next when following NowCar on social media.