Stellantis is not a musical version of Cat on a hot rooftop set in an underwater kingdom, but in fact the name of the newly merged Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group and the fourth largest carmaker in the world. The company held an event Thursday to brief investors and the media on its electrification strategy, and as appropriate for a company representing an accident of Italian, American, German and French sensitivity, it was a bit of a hot mess.
The first indication that things were getting weird was when Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis came out of a thick cloud of smoke produced by a Dodge Challenger̵
It was a jarring transition from the previous presenter, the mild-mannered Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller, who stood next to a one-off condition of the Opel Manta Model A. But I’m sure the whiplash was completely deliberate. This is the Dodge we’re talking about, the creator of the offensively fast demon. This is not a company known for its nuance.
Kuniskis’ job was to let Dodge customers know that the company would not survive any lame-ass electrification strategy. After all, who wants to buy a muscle car that does not emit thick plumes of toxic pollutants into the environment while scaring all of your neighbor’s cats with its aggressive engine hum? “Dodge will not sell electric cars,” he declared. “Dodge wants to sell American muscle.”
But apparently it was a bit of a handful because it turns out that Dodge will sell an electric car. It was a little confusing, but I think it’s because Dodge labels its future electric cars as “eMuscle” cars, a hokey bit of branding that car manufacturers tend to think sounds a lot cooler than it actually does. As if that wasn’t enough, Kuniskis went on to compare Dodge to a “hammerhead shark” [that] has thrived at the top of the food chain. “(Why hammerhead? Why not a great white shark?)
Kuniskis then said that Dodge’s new mission would be “to tear up the streets, not the planet”, which brings me to the next bit of creepiness from this presentation: taglines.
Each of Stellantis ’14 brands gets a new motto that ranges in quality from Jeeps’ “Zero Emission Freedom” (safe, fine) to Opel’s “Green is the New Cool” (burn it down, salt the ground so nothing else can grow) . Stellantis is a global company with thousands of employees and access to some of the world’s most elite market research firms. Which makes me wonder: who are the ad guides who came up with this one?
Speaking of Jeep, the iconic brand made some important news today – zero-emission models in every category by 2025 – in addition to some news that was just … out there. Apparently by the same date, Jeep also promises that drones will launch out of your Wrangler, and biometric face recognition will be used to unlock your vehicle (though it may not technically have doors to unlock).
And by 2030, we will have fully autonomous off-road jeeps through the desert, which sounds extremely cool but also feels very “CES circa 2016”, as each company promised fully autonomous everything without any restrictions, long before Uber killed someone with its self-driving car .
It’s as if Jeep has not really been aware of the latest news about self-driving cars. We are more than a decade away from starting to see them in significant numbers. Even then, the idea of autonomous vehicles that can drive anywhere, under any circumstances, may never become a reality. Even Elon Musk, the king of “fake it until you manage it”, admitted that autonomous vehicles are far harder than he expected! But definitely, get going with your driverless Jeep Rubicon in the middle of the desert with no road markings or anything.
Listen, I’m not trying to mess with Stellantis to be weird with his EV day. Other companies have had similar events that have mostly been stuffy and boring, so kudos to Stellantis for shooting his shot. Live each week as if it were hajuge.