Fiat Chrysler Said to Be Near Technology Deal With Google

  • Talks said to be late-stage with possible announcement Friday
  • Marchionne said this week he hopes to make a deal this year

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is in late-stage discussions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to form a technology partnership, said people familiar with the matter.

The deal would start with the Chrysler Pacifica minivans and may be announced as soon as Friday, said one of the people. Google has developed the software and vehicle-control capabilities for driverless cars and tested it over 1.4 million miles. The company has been in discussions with various carmakers about working together to deploy its technology in cars made by an established manufacturer. FCA Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne has been directly involved in talks with Google, the people said.

Marchionne said Tuesday on a conference call that he hopes to have an arrangement with a technology company to announce this year.

“I can’t say anything up to now,” he said. “I mean it’s just, whatever is going on is confidential in nature.”

Representatives for Google and Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on any partnerships. Talks began in 2013, according to one of the people.

If FCA and Google come to a deal, it could mean that the Italian-American carmaker is willing to let Google develop the brains of self-driving cars and own the technology and data while its assembly plants supply the brawn. General Motors Co. talked to Google about developing and testing self-driving cars, but they were unable to come to a deal because of disagreements over ownership of the technology and data, said a person familiar with the matter.

A deal could work for both companies, said Maryann Keller, an independent auto industry consultant in Stamford, Connecticut. FCA can’t afford to develop its own autonomous cars and an Internet company like Google wouldn’t want to spend billions on factories, she said.

“In effect what Google wants is a contract manufacturer,” Keller said. “If any company would do this on terms that aren’t acceptable to other carmakers, it’s FCA.”

Google hired former Hyundai Motor America and Ford Motor Co. executive John Krafcik in September to run its Self-Driving Car Project. In a January speech in Detroit, he said the aims are to reduce accidents and increase mobility options for elderly and disabled people, not to boost advertising revenue.

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