Fiat Chrysler proposes merger with Renault amid emissions deal with Tesla

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is making another strategic move to aid in its shift towards electrification, this time proposing a 50-50 merger with Renault that would make the joint venture the 3rd largest car manufacturer in the world with around 8.7 million annual sales.

The primary motivation for the deal is to split capital expenditure as both companies carry out their commitments to powertrain transitions, and FCA has estimated a $5.6 billion dollar cost savings to result from the merger. This move comes on the heels of an emissions credit deal with Tesla estimated to cost the Italian automaker over $1 billion dollars, and it doesn’t appear this expense will be affected by the merger in the short term.

Strict European Union (EU) emissions regulations led Tesla and FCA to enter into a vehicle pooling deal in April. Under the agreement, FCA will be counting Tesla’s zero-emissions fleet in its figures, allowing the company to lower its average CO2 output per vehicle. Both parties significantly benefit from the deal as FCA avoids EU penalties and Tesla receives monetary compensation. It also gives FCA extra time to work at its 5-year plan to move away from diesel and produce only all-electric and hybrid car models.

Fiat-Chrysler’s CEO Mike Manley previously estimated that 80% of FCA’s CO2 compliance would come from purchasing credits from Tesla in 2020 before falling to around 15 per cent in 2021. It’s not completely clear how Tesla’s emissions deal with FCA will be affected by a merger; however, as time is of the essence, very little may change, if at all. “If this merger proceeds, the creation of a new company could require more than a year,” Manley commented about the deal with Renault. If that’s the case, FCA would still need to meet EU regulation requirements in the meantime.

Beginning in 2020, 95% of automotive fleet-wide emissions in the EU must average under 95g of CO2 per kilometer, i.e., have a fuel efficiency of about 57 mpg for internal combustion vehicles. A Fiat-Renault merger would go well past this deadline, according to Manley, meaning FCA would still have to bear the cost burden of its deal with Tesla alone and on the original terms.

In 2021, full EU auto fleets must be compliant, and the penalties could add up to financial ruin for companies unable to meet the strict standards. FCA has been slower than its industry peers to adopt an electrification plan and needed to buy more time to carry out its strategy. The company’s efforts towards lower emissions will likely not manifest into enough production vehicles to avoid the EU fines by the impending deadline, leading to the deal with Tesla and representing another factor motivating the merger with Renault.

The terms of FCA’s proposed merger with Renault would give both auto makers equal representation on the combined board of directors, and shareholders would split the stocks equally. FCA further stated that no plant closures would result from the deal, although layoffs are still a question. Tesla, of course, is quite familiar with these types of changes that are necessary to completely uproot a century-old, gasoline-dominated industry in favor of one that’s more environmentally sustainable.

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