FCA says it has or will have three- and four-cylinder engines that overlap with similar-sized proprietary engines at nine major global automakers.
Does the industry need that many, which come at a typical development cost of $1 billion or more per program?
Absolutely not. That's why more sharing and other cost-savings strategies are happening. For instance, Daimler and Renault are jointly developing one of those coming three-bangers. Other automakers -- such as BMW -- are developing engines in a modular fashion, so that the cylinder design and components can be shared across three-, four- six-cylinder and larger engines.
Car buyers used to be highly sensitive to engine differentiation. In 1977, General Motors landed in hot water after customers discovered the company had put Chevrolet engines in Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Pontiacs. The company eventually settled a raft of lawsuits at an estimated cost of at least $30 million.
But times have changed. When BMW rebooted the Mini in 2001, it was an immediate hit -- with an engine designed by Chrysler and BMW-owned Rover. The car later got a Peugeot gasoline engine, and a Toyota diesel one, before BMW installed proprietary BMW engines in 2014.
In 2004, GM put a Honda V-6 in its Saturn Vue crossover. The engine was a nonissue for Saturn buyers before being replaced by GM engines in 2007.
In some cases, it matters. Luxury and sports-car brands arguably must showcase proprietary powertrains. In a recent poll of visitors to Autotrader.com, a vehicle shopping website, about half said they would find it very important if their vehicle had an engine made or developed by a different automaker. Even so, Daimler and Nissan plan to put Infiniti engines into Mercedes-Benz cars.
Sometimes an engine provided by another automaker can be seen as a positive. In 2005, there was a run on Range Rovers powered by BMW engines because the BMW engine was about to be dropped, a prominent dealer recalls.
Engineers and automaker executives can be their own worst enemies when it comes to sharing.