Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has high hopes for the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which will replace its has-been stalwart, the Town and Country, which has been in production for 26 consecutive years.
On Tuesday, the Italian-American automaker received a big endorsement from Google for its next-generation family hauler. The tech company is buying 100 Pacificas to advance its self-driving car technology.
“Working with Google provides an opportunity for FCA to partner with one of the world’s leading technology companies to accelerate the pace of innovation in the automotive industry,” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne said.
Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book, said the deal makes sense for both companies: for Fiat Chrysler, because it looks good to partner up with a Silicon Valley giant with deep pockets; and for Google, because it’s picking a multi-passenger vehicle with an advanced power train.
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“The Google deal puts a special sheen to FCA, which is looking for a partner to increase its visibly and capability in tech,” he said. “For Google, the fact the Pacifica is a plug-in hybrid is an advantage. It’s keeping in line with Google’s image. Picking a brand new plug-in hybrid make sense.”
The 2017 Chrysler Pacific, which starts at about $29,000, was unveiled earlier this year at the annual auto show in Detroit. Almost immediately, the automotive press swooned at the vehicle’s design and ample interior space. Car & Driver magazine gives the vehicle five stars for its safety features, ample power and generous storage space. FCA says the plug-in hybrid version — due out later this year — will boast 30 miles of electric-only travel.
The minivan segment has been a small but strong niche in the U.S., popular with larger families for its space and solid resale value. But Google may also have picked a minivan in part because the body style is ideal for future autonomous-driving, ride-sharing or ride-hailing services.
“If I were Uber looking to replace my fleet with self-driving cars, a minivan would be a great people hauler,” said Nerad. “It makes sense to test in vehicles appropriate for large volume use cases.”