LAS VEGAS — Stellantis on Thursday delivered an expansive vision of its future at CES that includes its push into the electric pickup market, innovative uses of autonomous technology for off-roading Jeeps and establishment of an independent unit that'll grow its "data as a service" business.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares also mentioned how the automaker is looking to the skies through its partnership with Archer Aviation to build electric aircraft, a mode of travel that he sees as having potential to offer freedom of mobility for people in urban settings.
Tavares said during his keynote address that Stellantis is becoming a "mobility tech company" and that it wants to improve how people move, socialize and entertain themselves. He said the company is massive in scale, but has the soul of a startup.
Tavares' lofty address sought to explain the automaker's place in the world.
"The need to innovate for our future is greater than ever. Companies must be both transformative, while profitable; be tech minded, but driven to serve human needs," he said. "Humans are, first and foremost, seeking a sense of safety in this uncertain chaotic world that is marred by crisis after crisis."
MORE PLANTS COULD BE IDLED
Meanwhile, Tavares said Stellantis may idle additional assembly plants as it grapples with higher inflation on top of the cost of electrifying its lineup.
“If we don’t optimize our cost structure, we cannot absorb the additional cost of electrification,” which risks leading to elevated car prices and a shrinking market, Tavares told reporters at CES. “If the market shrinks, we don’t need so many plants. Some unpopular decisions will have to be made.”
The automaker said last month it would idle a Jeep-making factory in Belvidere, Illi., effective Feb. 28, which will result in layoffs of an unspecified number of workers. Still, should car demand rebound, Stellantis might “adapt” its decision on that plant, Tavares said.
EUROPE VS. CHINA
On another topic, Tavares said he sees the European auto industry at a crossroads in competition with its Chinese rivals.
If politicians in Europe do not find an answer to the push into Europe by Chinese automakers, there will be a "terrible fight," Tavares told sibling publication Automobilwoche on the CES sidelines.
Europe's auto industry could be forced to massively reduce its production capacity in the face of rising competition from China, Tavares said.
Chinese automakers are expanding in Europe with competitive and aggressively priced vehicles, Tavares added.
"The price difference between European and Chinese vehicles is significant. If nothing is changed in the current situation, European customers from the middle class will increasingly turn to Chinese models. The purchasing power of many people in Europe is decreasing noticeably."
Tavares comments echo those of Forvia CEO Patrick Koller, who said in Las Vegas that European automakers must develop affordable small battery-electric vehicles for urban use.
Europe's emissions regulatory regime is not helping the region's automakers, Tavares said.
Big star of the day
Stellantis' biggest star of the day was the Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept pickup that rolled onto the stage sporting an aesthetic that designers consider both brutish and beautiful.
Ram CEO Mike Koval, who introduced the pickup Thursday, said the concept's design sets the tone for the next generation of Ram products.
The concept is flush with technology, including a personal artificial intelligence-powered assistant, a "shadow mode" where the truck will follow the driver using sensors and cameras, smart home control and an intelligent storage app that Ram says is a mobile application that helps users measure objects to determine whether they can be transported with their vehicle.
The tech innovation wasn't limited to Ram. Tavares highlighted how autonomous capability can enhance off-road adventures for Jeep.
For instance, Tavares said the vision is for an autonomous Jeep to pick up its owner further down the trail.
Ram wasn't the only concept to hit the stage. Peugeot CEO Linda Jackson debuted the futuristic-looking Inception EV that bears a design she called "feline future." Jackson said Inception has a "magnetic poise and posture of a big cat ready to spring."