Fiat Chrysler CEO couldn’t merge with GM — so now he wants to build the Apple Car

We can build it!
Thomson Reuters

There is no more entertaining chief executive in the auto industry that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Sergio Marchionne.

He is the opposite of boring, and he knows no fear. Acquiring Chrysler out of bankruptcy was just the beginning.

Last year, he spun off Ferrari in an IPO and conducted a very public courtship with General Motors, seeking a merger. But he was rebuffed.

Now he’s after a different dance partner: Apple.

According to Bloomberg’s Tommaso Ebhardt:

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, who describes himself as an “Apple freak,” is keen to partner with the technology giant on building a car.

Given the complexity of auto manufacturing, Apple Inc. would be better served working with an established manufacturer than trying to build a car on its own, and the Italian-American company would be well-suited, according to Marchionne, who says he owns every kind of product Apple makes.

This one is a doozy, even from Marchionne. Perhaps the appeal for Apple would be in Fiat style, and believe it or not, Apple’s top-secret car undertaking, “Project Titan,” is rumored to have imported a 1957 Fiat to some mysterious end. Although a Multipla 600, a rudimentary postwar people mover, is hardly an icon of European chic.

It certainly isn’t quality. FCA has seen booming sales over the past two years, but its vehicles are routinely cited by Consumer Reports for iffy reliability.

Despite that, one of the auto industry hires that Apple has made was Doug Betts – a former Chrysler quality czar.

Before you start thinking that there might be some kind of connection, note that Betts left Chrysler in 2014 after Chrysler and Fiat were clobbered by Consumer Reports.

You can’t blame Marchionne for trying. It’s clear that no traditional automaker wants to join with FCA, so Marchionne has shifted focus to Silicon Valley and Apple’s massive cash pile.

But if Apple actually wanted to pair up with an old-school car company, Marchionne hasn’t necessarily laid very good groundwork. If Apple builds a car, it will almost certainly be propelled by electricity – and Marchionne is no big fan of EVs.

“”I will sell the (minimum) of what I need to sell and not one more,” Marchionne said in 2014, speaking of the Fiat 500e, a car that at the time he claimed to lose $14,000 on for every sale.