Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is in talks with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. about a partnership to develop hydrogen engines.
The alliance, which would also cover transmissions, could become “a strong one,” Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said over the weekend at the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, near Milan. “We welcome the interest from other automakers in our advanced transmissions and hydrogen-powered technologies,” Hyundai said in an email Monday.
Cooperation on hydrogen propulsion would come despite electric-powered autos being established as the dominant technology in the emerging post-fossil fuel era. Hyundai initially led the commercialization of fuel-cell vehicles, though it has fallen behind Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. in terms of sales, while Fiat backed away from hydrogen power earlier this decade.
“There is the potential of a technical partnership with Hyundai, which already supplies some components and transmissions for the U.S.,” Marchionne told reporters after a presentation on Alfa’s planned Formula One return. “Let’s see if we find a deal to develop transmissions and hydrogen.”
Marchionne, a vocal proponent of automaker consolidation, having led Fiat’s takeover of Chrysler, said there is no likelihood of a merger with Hyundai.
The Seoul-based automaker is working on shrinking the size of a fuel-cell powertrain to one that’s comparable to an internal-combustion engine, so that it can fit into various models as well as reduce costs. Hyundai makes the ix35 Fuel Cell and plans to release a long-range hydrogen-powered SUV next year.
Fiat Chrysler has focused on electric developments, though on a limited basis. The company has offered a plug-in version of the 500 subcompact that’s available only in California, and last year introduced a hybrid variant of the Pacifica minivan.
“It can be a win-win situation for both automakers,” said Koh Tae-bong, a senior analyst at Hi Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. “If the report turns out to be true, Hyundai would be able to sell fuel-cell engines, an area where Japanese automakers are ahead, while FCA can expand its lineup with fuel-cell vehicles.”