Fiat Chrysler (NASDAQ:FCAU) stock is dirt-cheap right now, and bargain hunters are taking advantage of the weakness of Fiat stock.
While Fiat Chrysler stock doesn’t pay a dividend, it has a price-earnings ratio of just seven. Moreover, the market cap of Fiat stock is $26 billion, which is barely 25% of its annual sales.
Fiat Chrysler has a greater presence in overseas markets than any other American car company, and it has a plan to double its profits in five years.
Fiat stock is cheap, in part, due to a series of self-inflicted wounds. FCAU got caught up in the “Dieselgate” scandal, it recalled 1.6 million of its vehicles due to problems with their air bags, and its union is riddled with corruption. Some say it has yet to fully recover from the death of long-time CEO Sergio Marchionne, who was replaced by Englishman Michael Manley.
But most of Fiat Chrysler’s problems have already been solved. As we move toward an electric, self-driving future, there are reasons to be upbeat about Fiat stock.
The Google Connection
Start with the fact that Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Waymo unit is apparently looking to incorporate 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which Waymo purchased last year, into its self-driving-taxi fleet.
And unlike Ford Motor (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM), which have all but abandoned passenger cars, Fiat Chrysler still has a complete lineup of sedans. While Ford and GM have been exiting some foreign markets, Fiat Chrysler continues to have a large global footprint.
The whole autonomous car movement is currently becoming less ambitious , with even Waymo CEO John Krafcik admitting that such cars will always have “restraints.” But that’s not the same thing as saying there won’t be self-driving cars. There already are.
All of these worries are helping keep Fiat stock cheap.
Should Google Buy Chrysler?
In order to scale its services and compete with Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), Google’s Waymo has to be able to produce a large number, and preferably a wide variety, of cars. FCAU does that.
It makes sense that, at some point, once it’s ready to scale, Waymo could buy Fiat Chrysler. Since Fiat stock has a market cap of $25 billion and the market cap of Google stock is around $730 billion, while Alphabet has over $100 billion in cash and short-term securities on its books, Google could buy FCAU for seat-cushion money.
Alphabet hasn’t looked to buy FCAU yet because tech companies are engaged in a vast game of chicken with Detroit, and with one another, regarding autonomous vehicles. There are over a dozen tech companies playing the game, according to TechWorld, including Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), Uber and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).
Most leading car companies are also playing in the autonomous-vehicle arena or pretending to do so. Fiat Chrysler, which is also partnering with Intel and BMW on the development of autonomous vehicles, has other options.
Once the self-driving business leaves its present beta-test stage, the value of self-driving technology will decline in comparison with self-driving vehicles, since the value of new technology always declines as it proliferates. Consequently, automakers that are involved in developing self-driving vehicles look like better investments than the tech names in the space.
The Bottom Line on Fiat Stock
The idea of Google, or any tech company, buying Fiat Chrysler is purely speculative, but the concept has some validity.
Meanwhile Fiat stock has a dirt-cheap multiple, while FCAU has put the bulk of its legal troubles behind it and has a clear strategy, along with a wide variety of vehicles.
Once more tech companies look to partner with automakers, the valuations of the latter are going to rise. If you believe the space has a future, history suggests you want to own shares of automakers, including Fiat stock.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family, available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in AAPL.