NEW YORK/MILAN -- Fresh off reports that it is exploring a venture with PSA Group to build cars in Europe, the chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said the automaker will remain an active player in helping to shape an automotive industry being transformed by technology.
John Elkann, the chairman and CEO of Exor, wrote in a letter to shareholders of that holding company about his belief Fiat Chrysler can benefit from the emergence of electrified and autonomously driven vehicles. Exor, with a 29 percent stake and 42 percent of voting rights, is the automaker's largest share holder.
"We are determined that we and FCA will play our part actively and ambitiously in this new and exciting era," Elkann wrote. "Our commitment to FCA and to participating in its bold and profitable future is also unchanged."
The scion of Fiat's founding Agnelli family has repeatedly sought in recent years to tamp down speculation that Exor would seek to sell all or part of Fiat Chrysler to another automaker. But the family also has said it would consider diluting its stake in a larger group the automaker could form with other companies.
At the same time, Fiat Chrysler and its French peer PSA have been holding preliminary discussions to collaborate on a "super platform" -- the basic underpinning of a car model -- to reduce their investment costs in the highly competitive European region, Bloomberg News reported last week. Any eventual partnership will likely include sharing investments for new electric cars, according to people familiar with the talks.
Automakers are increasingly joining forces to share investments as the auto industry is facing technological disruption from the rise of fully-electric and increasingly self-driving cars. Stricter emission rules imposed by European regulators are also forcing the industry to shift away from traditional combustion engines.
Fiat Chrysler has been a laggard compared with global rivals when it comes to investing in electrification, though its five-year strategy plan through 2022 calls for offering hybrid gas-electric engines in more of its top-selling Jeep and Ram models, and for making full-electric versions of some Fiat, Jeep and Maserati vehicles.
The automaker ranked dead last among 13 car companies for both fuel economy and carbon emissions in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's evaluation of 2016 model year vehicles. The company also paid a $77 million civil penalty after its U.S.-assembled passenger car fleet fell short of required fuel economy targets.
FCA has also taken a penny-pinching approach on driverless cars, choosing to supply Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to -- and potentially license self-driving technology from -- Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, rather than follow other automakers investing billions to develop the know-how in-house. It's also partnering with BMW and supplier Aptiv to bring autonomous features to its Jeep, Ram, Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands.
A partnership with PSA could eventually develop into a wider combination in the future, though the current focus is on limited cooperation, according to two of the people familiar with the companies' talks.