Ford’s AV Update, GM’s Peer-to-Peer Ridesharing, & More Auto News

The “Big Three” Detroit-area automakers have all been making headlines this week. Ford shared more details on its autonomous vehicle division, GM announced a peer-to-peer ridesharing program, and the automotive world lost a key figure who’s been credited with saving Chrysler after the Great Recession. Read on for more details.

Sergio Marchionne, former CEO of Fiat Chrysler, has died due to complications from shoulder surgery. He was 66.

Marchionne was known as a skilled, if unconventional, auto executive. He rescued Fiat from the brink of bankruptcy after he took over as the automaker’s CEO in 2004. He did the same for Chrysler in 2009, when he pulled the Detroit automaker from liquidation post-recession, preserving roughly 300,000 jobs, and implemented a successful turnaround plan in which Fiat acquired Chrysler, a deal completed in 2014.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Marchionne was skeptical about how profitable electric cars were likely to be, so he pivoted to focus on the Jeeps and Rams that American consumers seemed to crave, which turned out to be a lucrative decision. He also chose to position Fiat Chrysler as a supplier of autonomous vehicles built to its customers’ specifications—Google’s Waymo has ordered more than 60,000 Chrysler Pacifica vans to use for testing, the Free Press reports—rather than developing its own technology in-house.

“Chrysler would not exist today without Sergio Marchionne’s guts, vision, and dogged execution of the vision,” Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader, told the newspaper. “He set high goals, and more often than not, they were met. He was one of a kind—international, intellectual, outspoken and direct, untraditional, and always quotable.”

—Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Chicago residents will be the first to test GM’s new peer-to-peer ridesharing program, which operates under the Maven umbrella, the automaker announced this week. The program will allow GM owners and lessees to rent their vehicles to other members of the service via the Maven app. (The vehicles must be model year 2015 or newer to qualify.)

All rental vehicles, which will appear on the app as Peer Cars, are insured through GM, and every potential driver is extensively vetted before being allowed access, Maven says in a press release. Driver support is also available via OnStar 24/7.

As the ridesharing service is being tested, Maven will gather data and insights from users, which it expects to use to guide future decisions on where to launch next. GM owners interested in registering their vehicles for the service can enroll here.

—This week, Ford announced that it is establishing a new autonomous vehicle division and shuffling some of its executives around.

Ford Autonomous Vehicles will house the company’s self-driving systems integration, autonomous vehicle research and advanced engineering, AV transportation-as-a-service network development, user experience, business strategy, and business development teams.

The new entity, which Ford says will be “structured to take on third-party investment,” will be based in the new office the automaker is building in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. It will also hold Ford’s ownership stake in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh AV startup that it invested $1 billion in as part of a 2017 co-development deal. (Ford says it will invest a total of $4 billion in the creation of self-driving cars.)

Running the new AV division will be Sherif Marakby, who previously served as Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification—a position he took in 2017 after returning to the company following a yearlong stint as Uber’s vice president of global vehicle programs. He began his career at Ford in 1990.

The automaker’s press release doesn’t mention how the new AV division will affect Ford Smart Mobility, but the Detroit News reports that Ford Smart Mobility will “continue to handle the company’s various mobility ventures, including the Chariot shuttle service, fleet management, and other ventures.”

All organizational changes are effective Aug. 1, Ford says.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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