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Stellantis wants to outfit cars with AI to drive up revenue

Published:Wednesday | December 8, 2021 | 12:07 AM
The Stellantis sign shown outside the Chrysler Technology Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
The Stellantis sign shown outside the Chrysler Technology Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Automaker Stellantis announced a strategy on Tuesday to embed AI-enabled software in 34 million vehicles across its 14 brands, hoping the tech upgrade will help it bring in €20 billion (US$22.6 billion) in annual revenue by 2030.

CEO Carlos Tavares heralded the move as part of a strategy that would transform the car company into a “sustainable mobility tech company,” with business growth coming from features and services tied to the internet. That includes using voice commands to activate navigation, make payments and order products online.

The company is expanding existing partnerships with BMW on partially automated driving, iPhone manufacturer Foxconn on customised cockpits, and Waymo to push their autonomous driving work into light commercial vehicle delivery fleets.

Stellantis’ embrace of artificial intelligence, or AI, and expansion of software-enabled vehicles is part of a broad transformation in the auto industry, with a race towards more fully electric and hybrid propulsion systems, more autonomous driving features, and increased connectivity in automobiles.

Ford and General Motors also are banking on dramatically increased revenue from similar online subscription services. But the automakers face immense competition for monthly consumer spending from movie and music-streaming services, news outlets, Amazon Prime and others.

Stellantis, which was formed from the combination of PSA Peugeot and FCA Fiat Chrysler, said the software would seamlessly integrate into customers’ lives, with the capability of live updates providing upgraded services over time.

New products will include the possibility to subscribe to automated driving features, purchase usage-based car insurance, or even increase the power of the vehicle with a tune-up to add horsepower.

As a baseline, Stellantis generates €400 million in revenue on software-generated services installed in 12 million vehicles.

To meet the targets, Stellantis will expand its software engineering team of 1,000 to 4,500 in North America, Asia and Europe. More than 1,000 of the expanded team will be retrained in-house.

Stellantis also announced a new partnership with Foxconn to develop semiconductors to cover 80 per cent of the company’s needs and simplify the supply chain. The first microchips from the partnership are targeted to be installed in vehicles in 2024.

It is Stellantis’ way of ensuring future supplies of computer chips to guard against another global shortage, which has forced nearly all automakers to temporarily close factories.

“This will also boost our ability to innovate faster and build products and services at a rapid pace,” Tavares said in a statement.

The automaker also said it’s working on a new electrical and software system that will go into four new fully electric vehicle platforms. The company plans to use the platforms to make small, medium and large vehicles, plus body-on-frame for trucks.

AP