Ralph Gilles, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles global design chief, has an urgent message for suppliers: The cost of designing and manufacturing vehicles is spiraling out of control.
"Cars are getting freakishly expensive, and the public isn't willing to pay," Gilles said at the Original Equipment Suppliers Association U.S.-Canada dinner in Dearborn, Mich., last week. "It's not sustainable."
Standing near a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan, Gilles spoke about the factors driving costs higher.
"In less than 10 years, all this new technology -- park assist, speech recognition, blind-spot detection, iPod interface -- all this stuff is becoming standard. That's why I reach out to the supply community. We have to find a way to consolidate modules."
Pointing to the Pacifica, Gilles said: "Modules, modules and more modules. There's so many modules there. If we were to strip off this car, we'd probably have a basketful of modules -- little black boxes that do something. It's getting out of control. They're very expensive. They're tough to package. They're very complex.
"There are six cameras and God knows how many sensors, radar, lidar -- everything on this van to make it safer, but it's expensive. Wouldn't it be nice to consolidate all that? We can't just keep pasting sensors on a vehicle."
Gilles said he'd like to see suppliers develop "a monster module that controls the entire vehicle and that's easier to upgrade."