Fiat Chrysler’s CEO says the carmaker could buy technology from Tesla (FCAU, TSLA)

Thursday was a big day for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The company announced its intention to execute a 50-50 stock swap merger with France's Peugeot and also reported better-than-expected third-quarter profits, driven by solid pickup and SUV sales in North America.

On a call with analysts after earnings came out, CEO Mick Manley provided some detail on FCA's relationship with Tesla moving forward.

Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas asked Manley for insight on just how much FCA is paying Tesla to pool vehicle fleets for regulatory compliance reasons in Europe, to avoid fines. The figure has been reported at levels ranging from millions to billions, but Manley declined to provide Jonas with any additional information.

Manley did address a follow-up question about whether FCA, which lags other automakers in terms of electrification investment, might buy an electric-platform or platforms from Tesla.

Manley said that if the merger with the PSA Group goes through, creating the world's fourth largest automaker, then electrification would happen on a "grand scale" and that further cooperation beyond what he termed a "hedge" on the vehicle-pooling front would make sense.

"The customer will be agnostic" to certain components

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Patrick Fallon / Reuters

"It would be wrong of me to say no," Manley said, highlighting the potential of such an arrangement to enable FCA and PSA to conserve capital.

"The customer will be agnostic" to certain components, Manley said, noting that batteries and drivetrain would be among them. He added that a company could buy a "skateboard" platform from Tesla, then tune other systems, such as suspension and handling, to suit various brands (FCA already has marques as diverse as Jeep, RAM, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo in its portfolio).

Tesla actually has some history as a supplier to other automakers. Early in its existence, Toyota took a stake in the California company, and Tesla provided Toyota with powertrains. Toyota later sold its holdings after Tesla 2010 IPO and the relationship ended.

Manley also said that FCA's pooling deal with Tesla would conclude in 2021, with 2022 being the first year that the company achieves the full benefit of its own efforts.

"Our relationship with Tesla goes back a long way," Manley said. "It really has helped us. But FCA are absolutely committed to reducing CO2 emissions around the world."

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