Stellantis Partners With iPhone-Maker Foxconn To Build Screen-Centric Car Interiors

Automotive conglomerate Stellantis, the group that owns everything from Dodge to Citroen, is partnering with iPhone-makers Foxconn on a 50/50 voting rights joint venture called Mobile Drive. The new company will develop a screen-centric cockpit for Stellantis’ own vehicles, and potentially other automakers’ in the future. With 250 Foxconn engineers already working on the project, this new partnership appears to be steaming along.

All of Stellantis’ brands will use the technology going forward, promising customization of a wide range of vehicles. CEO Carlos Tavares described Mobile Drive’s cockpit as core to the group’s future. The principles of Mobile Drive are, according to today’s presentation to media and shareholders: software built to be user-, rather than technology-centric, “forever up-to-date” vehicles via over-the-air updates, and moving towards an environment that enables AI features like driving assistance and more genuine autonomy.

Although the venture was confirmed by both Foxconn and Stellantis to be open to supplying other automakers (Foxconn is already working with Fisker), the first brands to receive Mobile Drive’s technology will be the group’s own. They said today that they couldn’t put a specific date to it but that an existing project had been identified as the first to benefit from Mobile Drive’s tech. 

In terms of what the cockpit will actually look like, the presentation today told us there will be “Large screens in every location, [to] really show the prominence of technology in the car. Multiscreen animations, tied with the interior lighting [will] create an immersive experience. This is our vision of the future. Each screen has its own individual purpose: navigation, media, comfort controls. The passengers, their experience is all about entertainment.”

Given the breadth of Stellantis’ brand portfolio, it might seem difficult to create something as suitable for a Fiat 500 as a Dodge Charger or Ram 1500. But as Yves Bonnefont, chief software officer at Stellantis explained, there will be two primary routes of customization.

“One is the brand experience customization because the brand portfolio of Stellantis is extremely strong with a very strong identity, which actually creates the passion of our customers for those brands,” said Bonnefont during the presentation. “And of course, we want the cockpits to remain true to the DNA of our brands because this is extremely important to the success of our business. So one aspect is the differentiation along the DNA of the brand and the other dimension of differentiation can be is around the hardware costs because of the very vast portfolio of prices.”

“I was mentioning in the presentation, a Peugeot 208 vs a Maserati, you have a factor of ten in the selling price of the vehicle, so you need scaleable hardware for the cockpit in order to accommodate content for the right level of segment and expectation from our customers. So that can affect the size of the screens, that can affect the number of the screens, as well as potentially some other physical devices,” he added.

“What is extremely important is that the core technology will be shared across the portfolio of brands to make sure that we leverage, the full scale effect of Stellantis and generate the synergies that we are expecting from the merger.”

So genuinely, no car will remain untouched by the new Mobile Drive technology, just used slightly differently across the group’s various brands. 

Concerns about the scale of infotainment systems aren’t driven by ideas about the purity of driving versus customer experience—and the fact that they are distracting and not always very secure. The idea of preparing cockpits for an experiential customer journey towards AI before we actually have it feels premature, however.

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