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Stellantis goes on developer hiring spree as it hopes to make software big part of business

Luke Ramseth, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

CHELSEA, Michigan — Stellantis NV is working to make software a major slice of its business.

The transatlantic automaker is putting a ChatGPT-powered voice assistant inside more vehicles beginning in Europe, adding in-vehicle navigation and route planning features, growing a business fleet software business, and releasing other products it hopes drivers or business owners will pay for.

The maker of Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram projects its software division will bring in $21.6 billion (20 billion euro) in revenue annually by 2030. That would account for 7% of Stellantis' ambitious overall 2030 revenue goal.

Software didn't account for any substantial revenue in 2021 when the company took its current shape with the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Groupe PSA.

To hit its ambitious revenue target, the company is on a developer hiring spree. It went from employing 165 developers in March 2023 to nearly 3,500 as of May 2024. They are spread out in tech centers around the world, with some of the company's largest hubs in the United States, Brazil, India, France and Morocco. Overall, Stellantis says it now employs about 6,000 people affiliated with its push into the software arena.

The new software-driven business is largely about subscriptions. Stellantis says it has about 5 million of them, with car owners paying for extra features such as such as stolen-vehicle tracking, the AI-enhanced voice assistant, or navigation services that help plan road trips in an electric vehicle. The company says it has 13.8 million "monetizable" vehicles on the road, with the ability to accept over-the-air software updates. It did 94 million such updates last year.

Yves Bonnefont, Stellantis' chief software officer, told reporters during a Wednesday presentation at the automaker's Chelsea Proving Grounds in Washtenaw County that it hasn't been easy to make the transition from strictly a carmaker to a tech company that's attempting to be nimble like a startup. Executives from the automaker gave the software business overview ahead of Stellantis' investor day gathering Thursday at the company's North American headquarters in Auburn Hills.

"We're on the learning journey, to get the subscriber business model at scale," Bonnefont said, adding that the goal is to transform from strictly a car-selling company, to to a car-selling company where "you can purchase services, or subscribe to services with us, over time."

 

One software product that executives demonstrated was the e-ROUTES app, which aims to help plan out an EV road trip so the driver knows when and where to stop and charge. Another was the ChatGPT-enhanced virtual assistant, which Stellantis piloted last October before rolling out to new vehicles in several European countries; the automaker plans to eventually bring the product to the United States.

Executives also showed off the company's Free2Move Connect Fleet, which is a platform allowing managers of a business fleet of vans or other vehicles to easily track their cars, know if they need a repair, or locate them if they are stolen. And a related software called MyTask allows drivers of such fleet vehicles to hit their destinations on time, and note if anything needs to be rescheduled.

So far, the fleet services — which can come stock in Stellantis vehicles, or be added later to other types of vehicles — are only available in Europe, but the company will release the platforms in the United States later this year.

"This is a very important sector for us — 25% of software revenue is attributable to our business customers," said Paul Spevetz, a Stellantis senior vice president with the company's Pro One commercial vehicle division. "These products are designed to keep my drivers safe, make my business more productive and optimize my operations."

Executives declined to discuss many current business metrics of Stellantis' software business. But they said it has grown dramatically since originally only existing in North America three years ago.

Now, the company is offering various software products, including subscriptions, across all six of its geographic regions and its 14 brands, said Mamatha Chamarthi, Stellantis' head of software business development. Everything from the vehicle's original sale to any issues that cropped up later, used to run through the dealer, she noted.

"Now, with the connected car, it's always-on engagement with the customer, delivering that lifetime value and recurring business," she said.


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