In other comments, Marchionne said that automakers shouldn’t be overly concerned about cost increases caused by meeting tightening fuel economy regulations, because all automakers have to shoulder them. But he warned that pricing must increase as content increases.
“We have learned a lot since the dark days of 2008 and 2009, and the price of these technologies is going to affect the price of these vehicles going forward,” he said. “You cannot have your margins decimated by technology solutions.”
“All of us are phenomenally worried about the cost of price increases,” Marchionne added. But “if it’s industry wide … you can’t be afraid of the bogeyman forever.”
Marchionne also said that it's proper for governments to set targets for fuel-economy increases and emission restrictions, but not to mandate or favor certain technologies to achieve those targets.
“Tell me what you want,” he said. “Don’t tell me how to get there.”
Asked about recalls, Marchionne said a “paradigm shift” was under way in the relationship between regulators and the industry that has resulted in a loss of equilibrium and over-reaction.
“The pendulum eventually stops,” Marchionne said. “I think NHTSA is experimenting with the exercise and scope of their authority, and the industry is getting used to responding to that.”
He also seemed to personally commit for the first time to keeping the Jeep Wrangler in Toledo, its historic home, if it is remotely possible.
“Toledo is a very difficult decision for all of us in FCA,” Marchionne said, speaking of discussions of potentially moving Jeep Wrangler output to another location because of the excessive costs involved if future Wranglers are to be made with aluminum instead of steel.
Marchionne spoke warmly about the workforce in Toledo and the sacrifices they have made since 2009 to produce over 500,000 Jeeps last year. He praised their dedication to the company and Jeep brand, saying “people that do stuff like this deserve something different.”
On FCA’s $6 billion effort to resurrect the Alfa Romeo premium brand and globalize it, Marchionne said Alfa will once again “play with the big boys” in the premium segment like Daimler and BMW. He said it was not that long ago when the Germans “used to look at Alfa with envy.”
That day would return, he said, thanks to 800 engineers working in “bunkers” on future Alfa vehicles.
He predicted that Alfa will achieve its product goals -- and have a successful distribution network in the United States -- before a certain electric-powered rival achieves its goals.
“Before Tesla does its stuff, we’ll do ours,” Marchionne said.