Fiat Chrysler chief still says EVs can't make money

Fiat Chrysler CEO Marchionne is a little more sanguine about autonomous driving.

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Add Sergio Marchionne's insistence that it's impossible to make money on electric vehicle production to death and taxes among things we can all count on. The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO, speaking in an interview with UK's Car Magazine, implied that Tesla Motors was "the iPhone of cars." The metaphor may have been mixed, as iPhones make plenty of cash for Apple, whereas Tesla has never made an annual profit from its electric vehicles. But the implication was that automakers should stick to what they know, and they don't know smartphones. Forget any upcoming presidential debates, we're waiting for one between Marchionne and Tesla chief Elon Musk.

As for the development of autonomous-driving features? Those are another story, says Marchionne, and an area where he's far more in line with Musk. That's because the technology required to make a car safely accelerate, brake, and steer on its own is far cheaper than making a car with an electric drivetrain that offers similar range and performance to a car with an internal combustion engine, he says.

As opposed to electrification, Fiat Chrysler has been going the route of modifying conventional powertrains via wringing out more power out of progressively smaller engines, and mating them with eight- and nine-speed transmissions. As for EVs, credit Marchionne for his consistency. Fiat Chrysler has been selling the Fiat 500e since 2013. That year, Wards Auto named the 500e motor to its 10 Best Engines list, while the 500e won Road & Track's 2013 award for best electric car. Still, Marchionne has long said that Fiat only makes the vehicle for to satisfy zero-emissions vehicle mandates in California, and that the company loses as much as $10,000 for every 500e that it sells.

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