Fiat-Chrysler Seeks Uber Deal

Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE: FCAU) wants to partner with Uber on self-driving cars.

Fiat wants to enter into a joint venture in order to get access to Uber’s self-driving car technology, Bloomberg reported. Uber is currently working with Ford (NYSE: F) on autonomous vehicles; but it is unclear if the two companies have a formal arrangement.

The purpose of the venture would be to create a platform for a self-driving ride-sharing vehicle. Uber is currently developing such vehicles in Pittsburgh, where it has demonstrated autonomous Ford Fusions to the media.

Fiat and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) entered into a partnership to create a self-driving minivan based on Chrysler’s Pacifica; and Dodge Grand Caravan, platform last month. It is not clear how that deal will be affected by the Uber alliance; given the increasingly contentious relationship between Uber and the company formerly known as Google.

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Uber working with Walmart and Toyota

Uber for its part might want to get its hands on Dodge’s minivans; which would be perfect ride sharing and delivery vehicles. Uber is currently testing a delivery solution with Walmart (NYSE: WMT) in Arizona. Fiat-Chrysler has also reportedly offered to deliver a self-driving delivery vehicle for Amazon.

A wild card in the deal is Toyota (NYSE: TMC); which has agreed to make a “strategic investment in Uber.” Toyota has its own self-driving car program based in Silicon Valley. Will Toyota want to work with a company in a venture with a direct competitor?

Chrysler is more receptive to joint ventures with tech companies because it lacks the resources to launch its own autonomous vehicle effort. Nor is it likely to launch one anytime soon because of its debt. Instead Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is trying to tap the deep pockets in Silicon Valley.

Uber which received a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund leads the list. The Week reported that investment was the biggest ever in a private company.

An interesting possibility here is that Uber will try to pit Ford, Toyota and Fiat-Chrysler against other in order to force one to give it a better deal. Toyota, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler might go along; because they want the chance to sell vehicles to the millions of Uber drivers throughout the world.

It looks as if the auto industry and Silicon Valley are converging. One has to wonder if Uber can survive as an independent company or if it will end up as part of one of the automotive giants.