Fiat Chrysler sees gains in North America, Europe

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne says the auto industry faces grave risks if companies don't start consolidating and share skyrocketing product development costs.

Marchionne has been pitching consolidation lately, and Wednesday he made his case for industry mergers during FCA's first-quarter earnings presentation. The company posted first-quarter net income of $101 million compared with a net loss of $193 million in the same period of 2014.


Major automakers spent a total of $136 billion on capital expenditures and research and development last year, Marchionne said. That was up from $85 billion in 2010.

The CEO presented data showing that it takes automakers an average of four years to reinvest the total value of their companies into research and development and capital expenditures, compared with an average of 20 years across other industries. Oil and gas companies average seven years, while retail companies average 36 years, Marchionne said.

"We are risking capital at tremendous rates, and the markets are not buying it," Marchionne told analysts and investors. "We live in a world of our own. This is incredibly insular."

The main problem, Marchionne says, is that the auto industry spends enormous amounts developing proprietary parts, such as engines and transmissions, that make no difference to the consumer. He estimated FCA could save $2.7 billion to $5 billion each year by sharing product development costs with another automaker.

"It is, in its purest form, economic waste," he said.

Marchionne's petitions for consolidation have so far found no takers among other automakers. He also said Wednesday that he would consider merging with Apple or another tech company.

Strong sales of the new Jeep Renegade small SUV and Chrysler 200 sedan in North America and modest growth in Europe pushed the company to profit in the first quarter.

Revenue rose 38% to $18 billion.

North America revenue rose thanks to higher sales volumes and higher U.S. pricing, which helped blunt the negative impact of a stronger U.S. dollar in Canada and Mexico.