Establishing Freedom of Mobility with Bertrand Blaise of Stellantis

January 23, 2024

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Bertrand Blaise was appointed Chief Communication & CSR Officer and a member of Stellantis’ Top Executive Team in January 2021. He has built his entire career path within the field of product and corporate communication in the automotive, railway and energy sectors, working in Europe and Asia Pacific.

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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so excited to have with us today Bertrand Blaise. He’s the chief communication and CSR officer of Stellantis. He’s in Amsterdam tonight doing this podcast with us. I’m in Fresno. Welcome, Bertrand, to the Impact Podcast show.

Bertrand Blaise: Thank you, John, to welcome me to your show and hello to everybody, wherever you are because I know your show is seen by everybody from East Coast, West Coast and abroad. So good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Depending on where you are connected from.

John: Thank you Bertrand, and you know, before we get talking about all the important work you and your colleagues are doing at Stellantis, I would love you to first share your background where you were born, where you grew up, and who inspired you and how did you get on this wonderful journey that you’re on at Stellantis?

Bertrand: So I was born close to the Swiss and German border in the East part of France. And then I studied political science and communication. And since was a boy I was very keen on on cars first, and becoming an artist I move from car passion to mobility passion, and I decided to work for the mobility industry, starting with the car industry. I started in 1990 with Renault, the French car maker. Then I moved to Japan with Carlos Ghosn for Renault and Nissan.

Then I moved to a French company called Alstom, which is not about cars but about tramways, trains, and for example, Alstom has built the New York Metro and also the Acela train on the East coast. The express train of US is built by Alstom, a French company. Then I moved back again to the car industry, with PSA meaning Peugeot, and then at the chance to leave the merger with FCA Fiat Chrysler to form Stellantis in January 21st. So I think all my life was around mobility, individual mobility through cars and collective or public transportation with with Alstom trains and tramways and subways.

John: That’s wonderful. And I want you to do this for me though Bertrand, can you please share with our listeners or viewers? You know, they might not be familiar with the name and brand Stellantis, but they’re going to be very familiar with all the wonderful brands that is under your Stellantis umbrella, in your family. Can you share the wonderful mobility brands that Stellantis manufactures and designs and builds?

Bertrand: So I will start with the car brands. I will start with the mobility brand, which is called Free2move first because it’s something that we started to launch 10 years ago, even before we formed Stellantis.

John: Okay.

Bertrand: And with Stellantis, it’s a great and a big baby, I would say because we are kind of startup because we formed started in January 21st. So almost less than 3 years ago now. But it’s the baby became a giant immediately. Because if I go to the brands, I will start with exotic brands for you, starting with Peugeot, Citroen, DS, kind of premium brands, Opel in Germany, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia in Italy. If I cross the ocean, I will move to Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep. So we have 14 brands.

John: Wow.

Bertrand: And one mobility brand. So this is Stellantis we are 300,000 people across the world, and we have three routes. You know, our competitors are either German like Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Toyota in Nagoya. But Stellantis we have three routes and the headquarter is in Amsterdam. This is why I’m living in Amsterdam. But we have strong roots in Auburn Hills in US, Michigan, Paris and Turin in Italy. So these are our routes because the company was formed by, I would say ex Chrysler, ex Peugeot, ex Fiat. So this is why the roots are in those 3 countries. And we have a lot of diversity. You know, the executive committee, we are 30 people around the CEO Carlos Tavares, and we are living in 12 countries.

John: Wow.

Bertrand: So, and my team is very scattered. I think I’m speaking from Amsterdam, but my assistant is in Detroit. And all my team I have here with me in Amsterdam there are 3 colleagues accepted to join me in Amsterdam. I have one New Zealander, Paul, in charge of the web. I have one person in charge of contents coming from US, Kaitlyn. And one in charge of strategy and media, who is now coming from Brazil. So here in in Amsterdam, we have one French, one New Zealander, one American, and one Brazilian citizen. So this is diversity of Stellantis. We are I would say covering. So it’s great because when you are form such a new company, you learn from different cultures. And I discover a lot of things through the discussion with my assistant in Detroit, or Kaitlyn or Fernando.

Even here we are just 3, and 4, sorry, but we have great discussion about how to handle communication because communication is people to people. We are not robots, we are not computers. So you need always to adapt to your target audience. The way to communicate with French people, even in Europe, between French, German, Swedish, and Spanish people is not the same way. So imagine when we have to communicate with 2 or 300,000 employees in Brazil, in US, in Canada and Mexico, in China, et cetera. So it’s very rewarding to discover the diversity of the people and to confront all the experience. And it’s really great to work in such an open company, and with such great brands as you highlighted, John.

So again 14 brands, including one mobility brands dedicated to mobility. And you know what is interesting with Free2move, we formed that company 10 years ago. And that company has taken over the biggest company in Europe, which is Chanel coming from Mercedes and BMW and now Stellantis absorb Chanel. And now Stellantis is a leader in mobility, in car sharing in Europe. So we are really not only car maker, we are mobility provider. And to finish this, we have one thing which is clear for us is that we are here to provide clean, safe and affordable mobility solution. Could be a car, could be a car sharing, could be rental for one hour, one day, one year or 3 years. So we are here to serve the mobility needs of the people. We are not only a car maker and a car dealer. I would say, it is important for us to go beyond the point of the car industry.

This is why we have initiative in several things like mobility and back to my background and I will finish with that. I’m really passionate about how people can move because usually mobility is not only to go for weekend or or for vacation, mobility is also to access for job, to access to culture, because people are not living in the center city using electric scooter or the subway or whatever. If you live in the suburbs, maybe could take you 3 hours or 4 hours commuting every day. And maybe the only solution you have is a car because you have no alternative means. This is why we have people in traffic jams, and I’m not sure that people really enjoy to be in traffic jam every day to do maybe 1 or 2 hours per day, with useless time queuing, spending money with the gas, et cetera. It is because those people have no other choice but to use that.

And we are thinking broadly to see how we can meet the needs of the mobility users who are using public transportation. It could be multimodality. I can walk to take a bus, to take a train, and to take a bus and to go to the office and reverse, you know, just in France, we are 66 million inhabitants. And in France, we have almost 10 millions of people who are suffering of a lack of mobility because sometimes they live in the countryside. The job is in the city, maybe 20km, meaning 15 miles from home. They have a problem with their cars. They have no money to repair the car. They lose the job.

John: Wow.

Bertrand: And so it’s not only about mobility to enjoy, to go to the cinema, it’s also to live. If you want to buy foods to the supermarket, you need somewhere because to get the stuff back to your home. In US is different, you know in Europe, for example, what is interesting is that you have a 60% of CO2 emission, which are linked only to daily commuting, not to go for vacation. Daily commuting in US is 20% of CO2 emission of transportation linked to daily commuting. So this is why we think that with this initiative of forum, we have to find the way to reduce this mobility that is not for pleasure. It just because you need to work and that’s it.

So we can easily access solution that could reduce elusive carbon footprint of our mobility, and this is what we are seeking for. And this is why we have taken initiative of the Freedom of Mobility Forum. And you have maybe the address on our website to find… So that people can access the knowledge of different opinion, not only ours. We are not here to give lessons, we are here to open the dialogue with stakeholders from different parts of the society.

John: Yeah. Now, and I want to go back into that for our listeners and viewers the Freedom of mobility forum, you can find that at that link will be in our show notes. So you can look at that, those show notes and you can directly access it to find Bertrand and his whole wonderful team of colleagues at Stellantis. You go to Well, what a fascinating company you’ve put together in terms of diversity of cultures and diversity of backgrounds. Talk about the ultimate diversity. As you said, you can pick up the phone or look at your emails and you’re going to be having your colleagues that work with you directly, inform you from all different parts of the world at all different times. So that must be very fascinating to work with such an array of individuals that now make up your team at Stellantis.

Bertrand: Yeah, you’re right, John. Every morning when I go to the office, I’m just asking myself what will I have discovered today? And it’s about curiosity. Even 3 years after in our job, it’s not about evolution of our job with artificial intelligence, ChatGPT, whatever. It’s just basically to learn from people. And it is very rewarding. And upon the journey also, you give and thank you for giving the link to our website. You can go eat freely. It’s not a marketing trap. You will not see any advertising on our cars or whatever, or financial proposal or whatever. No, it’s just purely mobility. You will not see any brands appearing of Stellantis.

There is no cookie there to attract you to the dealers, so you can be free to go there. It is not a marketing tool. You can, I will say, travel for the different publication where you will see the last year debates we had the first year, last year a debate which topic was in a decarbonized world, will freedom of mobility be affordable to a few only. And we have representing the mobility industry meaning Stellantis. And we have people from all continents. We have American people of energy companies, Swedish, somebody from Algeria, somebody from India, somebody from South Africa.

So we have a lot of things that, again, we mimic our diversity by giving the opportunity to several people to express what is the mobility from their point of view. And I encourage you to to look at these debates with a lot of confrontation of ideas, because we do not agree on everything. But you can see that the way US people, French people, Algerian people, Indian people see mobility is totally different. And I think for some of them, it is interesting because we have one of the board member of mobility from… Who is, let’s say, my problem[?] mobility is a German woman in Senegal. And when we want to travel together, she can access without a visa to something like 70 countries and I can access without Visa to 7 countries.

So my mobility problem is first starting with Visa, and we are married, but so it all [inaudible]. But my freedom of mobility starts with administrative burden, while other, the way to address mobility. We have also one of the debaters explaining that the source of mobility, whatever is trains, planes, cars, et cetera, it is a source of energy. Is it clean or not? If we start from source of energy, if you are not a clean source of green energy, whatever, you include that in the car batteries, in the plane, in a train, et cetera, you have a problem of emission because the movements is linked to the use and consumption of energy. So everything starts from energy and during that debate you will see that our CEO say is very simple. We have 3 timelines to move in a country from fossil energy to renewable and clean energy takes something like 20 years. You have to invest in new energy, renewable nuclear, solar, whatever, 20 years.

John: Sure.

Bertrand: Investments so that you are clean, a country level source of energy. You need 10 years to develop a decent charging network, 10 years to put all the charging points in the country because it’s frozen. It’s an investment because it’s no more oil and gas, it’s electricity. So we don’t use a tank station. We have to reinvest everything you have to change to upgrade the grid, et cetera, in 10 years.

John: And, you know, about these your industry better than anybody else. How does… How is your freedom of mobility forum different from other conferences or talks on sustainability mobility topics? Explain what you think are the one or 2 or 3 most differential components of your conference and sets it apart from everything else that exists out there on the planet.

Bertrand: What makes it different first, is not the Stellantis, I would say a keynote to teach the world. No, we are here to exchange. We are here to listen. We are here to learn. We are here to debate. And if you go to the replay of the first session, you will see sometimes how tense it was with a strong criticism against the car industry. But we accept that because this is the expression of people who are against the individual mobility, it exists. We have to respect that. So the difference is that it’s not people sitting in armchair and very politely saying that we will save the world, et cetera, no, the idea is that, okay, guys, together as the people in charge now, we have the responsibility to try to think how to make a better world for the next generation to come my kids, my grandkids.

And there we have to understand what we need to align today. The problem is that you have some people who are very, I would say dogmatic without the scientific facts and our things is clear for the debate is that we by preparing the debate, all the figures that we show starting the debates are bulletproof. So we can show this is coming from this study. That study is not a thing and I invent a figure, no. Everything can be assessed, audited. It’s… We start with the facts. Around the facts we see how we could improve this and that. So this is totally different from other because then we invite NGOs, we invite people representing the civil society, we reframe to invite politicians because it’s always I’m okay, I’m against, et cetera.

So it’s not a debate on dogma. We want to be facts-based. We want to open the path to create the path to better mobility condition. It’s not easy because it’s a lot of things. It’s not only speaking about the speed of change, but also the amount of investment to change. In the past, we had a good exchange, a video with Carlos and the former Minister of Environment of Mexico, and it was an interesting dialogue because she said, you know, the civil servants in my ministry, I have 15,000 in Mexico City area. You know how vast is Mexico City.

They make a map of who is working where and who is living where. And by combining the 2 maps of I’m working here, I’m living here, they discover that among the 15 people you have people living here, working here. So they say, if you are an assistant, maybe you can change with another assistant. And on 15,000 civil servants, more than 3000 change. And instead of spending 2 hours commuting per day, they spend 10 minutes by work because the next office of the minister was close to their home or apartments. So it’s just something that doesn’t cost anything but save a lot of emissions. So you see, human can be clever, and this kind of easy things could solve part of the mobility issue. Instead of saying, I forbid the car to enter the city, no, again, people don’t come in the city every day by pleasure. It’s because they have to go and work and get money for the family. You see, it is something very interesting because it goes far beyond the car, the technology, et cetera. It’s more a society debate and discussion.

John: Understood. And, when you’re currently preparing for 2024, the forum in 2024, can you share some of the topics that you’re most excited about coming for the 2024 Freedom of Mobility forum?

Bertrand: So I cannot unveil it because it’s secrets. I cannot unveil the topic. Otherwise I will be killed by my team, I promise. I left my passport to my team, promising that I will not disclose.

John: Okay.

Bertrand: We are… What is important, John, is that the feedback of the third debates was very good. And we had the debate, the feedback of several people saying you have to involve much more the youth, youth people, young generation and what will be… What we change for next year I can disclose that, is that we will work with different universities across the world. So that we will give them the thematic of next year under embargo, and they will give their own studies and reflection and contribution, because it’s important you and me are not the more fresh people we have an experience, we as a background. I would not say that we are old, but we have a background it’s more polite.

And what is important is that we are in a position to decide, but not for us to listen to the others. So this is why we wanted to have much more input for next year about young generation. And we decided to tie up with Free University. We will work on the topic, give their own expression, their own studies, their own research, and they will be part of the next year debate. So we say, okay, we the student of this university based on new topics, we propose this, et cetera. We inquire about this and that and our proposal, our discussion or our question are this and that.

It’s very important and it is based on the also reflection of this. We have a CEO, Carlos Tavares, who is 60 something and he has 3 daughters and 4 grandsons. And I’m doing that for my grandsons because I’m in charge today to define to some extent to define their life through mobility, because if we don’t push engineer to advance very clever solutions, if you see how the battery technology is evolving. Now we speak about solid state battery with half time to charge a double range for the same way, same utilization of scarce resources. So maybe and this is an engineer. He trusts engineering capability to progress, to change the world for better. And this is why we want to find solutions.

And some could be acceptable, some could not be acceptable because it’s too costly. And back to my square one, clean and safe and affordable mobility. You can have the best solution. Saying I invented a battery with gold and diamonds. But to drive a 100km range, you need to buy your car $2 million. People will say, it’s not for me, I cannot afford. So we have a great idea, but without any impact, because people cannot afford. So we have also to think to middle class and people ability to go work, access to culture, visit museums, visit friends. It’s also to socialize with the families, et cetera. So this is our responsibility as car maker we are, this is why we call us mobility provider, rather the car makers. And I think the innovation and the tech will play a great role in the solutions that we will invent.

If I just come back to what is the car industry, I would say it was invented. I would say, end of 19th century. And the first car, if you compare the CO2 emission of the first car with what we propose, even with IC, the first car was emitting much more CO2 than the biggest V8 of the current production today, because engineer invented much more efficient utilization of energy in IC. And now we are the eve of a new generation of engineers who will have to reinvent from scratch the efficiency and innovation for electric mobility. Those engineers, or the father or voice engineer worked on IC engine with 4 valves, turbo this kind of thing. But now it’s the grandson of those engineers, if they are engineers, have to invent the new batteries, the new electric engines with single rotors. And so they have to reinvent the efficiency of new propulsion system, which are based on electricity or hydrogen fuel cells.

So for engineer, I’m not engineer, but for engineers, they are very keen on inventing something that has not been invented because the former generation of engineers in our industry, they were just to optimize, its 2 valve, 3 valve, 4 valve. Okay. But just to optimize here, it’s totally the white paper. And you have to reinvent the guys even, you know, John, maybe people don’t know but the first world speed record in 1902. I think was made by the pure electric car. It was the French one, La Jamais Contente, which topped 100 kilometer per hour, which is something like 60mph. The first world record of speed was reached by a full electric car, I would say 120 years ago. And since then, the reason why we do not discover electric mobility is because at PSA, we invented in 1992, in France, West part of France, a pure carsharing mobility system in a city of West part is not Marseille where you were born John.

Is West, La Rochelle is a port or harbour. And then we had a fleet of something like 20 small Peugeot car, fully electric in car sharing, but the range was something like 50km with one and a half ton of batteries. It was incredible. And look what we have with our mobile phones. We have an autonomy of 2 days. While the first mobile phone you had an automobile, an autonomy of 2 hours, not 2 days. So you see, there is a lot of hope trusting the engineers.

John: Want to ask you about that for a second. You know, right now the state of the art for laymen like me. And you’re… Not only are you an expert, but you’re a visionary and you have great visibility on the future with regards to mobility. Talk a little bit about lithium ion batteries. Today they’re the state of the art way to power electric cars. How… What’s coming in the future? What kind of sources of energy for mobility of electric cars is coming in the future? Is it going to be lithium ion batteries, or is that going to evolve to some other new energy source in the years ahead?

Bertrand: So we have already done, I would say, a diversity of battery chemistry, which is incredible from sodium, lithium, et cetera. So while we speak, maybe there is an engineer somewhere who maybe just born or not yet engineer, or maybe an engineer studying in an engineering school that will invent a revolution in 2 years or 1 years. We don’t know. Again, we start from scratch. So this is what is exciting. We start from scratch. And today lithium is… We have also LSP. So we have different things. What is interesting is that we have two things to follow is the evolution of the battery chemistry and the link to geopolitics, because we know that, for example cobalt, cobalt is coming from DRC in Africa. We know that the Chinese have taken over all the mines. So lithium could be produced in several countries in Chile, in US, in Europe, et cetera. So the origin is different. If I come back to IC with petrol and gas.

John: Right.

Bertrand: We were dependent from, I would say Saudi Arabia, Middle East, et cetera. So the source of energy has a link with geopolitics. And today, to your point, lithium can be produced everywhere. But if you have back up of lithium, you cannot put that in the battery like this. You have to go to a refinery. And 60% of the refinery region are in China. So you can say, okay, I have my lithium in US, in California Salt Lakes, et cetera. But I need to go to the Chinese factory to refine my lithium. So then you could say, “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s full. I have no time to refine your lithium because I would like to give the priority to the own Chinese carmakers.”

So, you know, it’s a mix of geopolitics, science, chemistry, but to your point, it’s also… What is important is that today the cost, if you take the same car, I see electric the same. The difference in cost today is almost 40% more expensive because of electrification, because of the cost of battery, which is roughly 30, 35% of the total cost of the car is battery. If I make the comparison with a gas tank. On your car you have a gas tank. Gas tank is made of steel. It costs something like $50 to produce, but the battery could cost thousands of dollars to produce. So you see, to stores energy, you have something which is just a tank made of steel, in which you put the gas.

John: Yes.

Bertrand: Or you have the battery without electricity, which costs a fortune. So our challenge to preserve the affordability to your question is to find the best ratio performance, cost and availability of raw material. Because, you know, if you pile up the electrification move of our society, we are speaking about the cars because my job is to work for a car company. But if you add my former company was trains, so no more diesel trains for freight only, I would say electric trains, maybe tomorrow. Electric planes, electric buses, electric trucks, and not heavy duty, all the big trucks. So how many planets we will need to source the raw material?

John: Right.

Bertrand: Do we have enough cobalt? Because today, okay, we say we have good source in Africa. But if everybody asks, I need for this I need for that, et cetera. Then the problem is that the equation of the level of resources and the needs to transform our society to an electric society, if we have to, you know that in China every week they open a new coal power plant, every week.

John: Every week?

Bertrand: Every week, and for example, in Poland, if you charge your electric car in Poland, it emits much more than a diesel car in terms of CO2, because the electric plug is plugged on a coal power plant, not a solar or windmills or whatever.

Bertrand: So you see, it is something that is amazing reflection. And again, it’s in the future, maybe somebody will invent in one week, one day, one hour or one century, I don’t know, the battery with salt and paper and water. And in that case, everybody can afford because the cost will be nothing. So, you see, we trust the engineering to invent breakthrough innovation that will make it more performance and more affordable. Because if you take the the real cost of a car, the car until the 70s were limited to very wealthy people. Remember in the 30s you have the people with their hearts driving the cars. And so they were the tycoon of the city.

John: Right. Yeah.

Bertrand: And today almost everybody can buy a car if not new a second hand. So that means mobility is available for a lot of people, but with the existing IC, et cetera. But we have to reinvent the same availability in the electrified world with electric cars, with batteries, with fuel cell. Today in Europe we are selling fuel cells, hydrogen fuel cell vans because it’s also an alternative solution to have a zero emission because we put green hydrogen there, then the stack produce electricity to electric engines.

So we have no more IC and you have a range of almost, I would say 3000, we are 300 miles. And to recharge, it’s like a IC. So you recharge hydrogen, it takes you 3 to 4 minutes for an additional 300 miles. But it’s electric engine with hydrogen to produce electricity on board the car. So you see, there are a lot of not competition but ways. And one day we… Somebody will invent the solution. Today there is still a diversity in energy chemistry for the batteries, fuel cell hybrids, I would say, pure electric hybrids that’s like Toyota’s you drive it, you don’t charge. Some plug in hybrids so you see diversity of things today. And what is important is that it’s not a beauty contest for engineers.

John: Right.

Bertrand: Because the ones who will make the change for a better low emission mobility are the customer, the users. You know John, on this planet, there are around 1.5, 1.7 billion IC cars existing on the this planet, the cumulative cars in all the continent, 1.7 billion. So imagine to replace 1.7 billion. We have two issues first, do everybody has enough money to scrap the old and to buy a new one which is more costly? Second, are we sure that to build 1.7 billion battery pack, how many planets we would need to do that? So, you know, it’s interesting because it’s a basic ideas. Okay. It’s we have good ideas. But what is the reality to implement those ideas.

So this is why we want to move from dogmatic, I would say promises. We’re not here to do politics. And guys trust me, you can sleep. You will have a better life. But what is the solution? And we’re not again, we’re not politician. We work with science and we test the things and we say we… It’s we do that for the the users who are our customers. Because if we invent great things unaffordable, okay, we keep it for us and we don’t change anything. So you see, it’s again, it’s something which makes a lot of other things. This is why it’s so interesting discussion. The problem is that we can have hours and days and months of discussion, but the global warming is asking us to ring the bell now, so we cannot spend the 2 centuries to find solutions.

John: Bertrand, I also have a granddaughter. Is autonomous cars mobility going to be part normalized in her generation, or are you and I going to get to live to see the benefit of mobility, of autonomy and autonomous vehicles come to our generation as well? What do you feel is coming for the future of autonomous mobility?

Bertrand: So it’s part of a thing because autonomous mobility means very nice time when we travel.

John: Yeah.

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Bertrand: When you’re in a plane, you can look at the TV, film or listen music. So if you use your car, totally autonomous car, it’s a great dream because, you know what I will say, I will not be on my steering wheel, I would spend it in style, I’m tired. I drove 4 hours. No, it’s great, but and you know that at Stellantis we have already full autonomous car already developed by our engineers. We made several experiments, even with TV on boards, who go and expressway cross the toll gates automatically. You don’t have to do anything. And it chooses the right lane, and it goes exactly. So you have not to miss the lane.

So it’s a quite a precise exercise. And you have to trust the technology when you are inside the car. But the problem, John, is first regulation because until recently in Europe, the road convention, which is a big regulation in Europe, was a Vienna convention dated from 1974. So imagine at that time if people could anticipate the autonomous driving on roads through regulation. So they have to restart. Second point is who is responsible in case of an accident. Is it the car? Is it the driver? And even more important, John, if you put an autonomous car, fully autonomous car in the middle of the city, a big city, when you are in a roundabout, for example, I don’t know if you went in Paris, for example, in Champs-Élysées, there is a big place around with a [inaudible].

John: Yes.

Bertrand: If you go there, it’s a jungle, because if you go with autonomous car, you will have, either you have all autonomous car around, which is perfect because they will… The computer will say, okay, I have to let the guy on the right to take over. So I stop, he pass and I go after. But you know, we are human beings and you are already again from South of France in Marseille. People are warning do-do-do-do-do. And they never respect anything. They try to overtake you. Even today I think you experience also autonomous vehicle at different step. Maybe on your car you have a adaptive cruise control so you can put that on the expressway.

And when the car in front of you is braking, you can adapt its speed. But the problem is that when you do that, your car, because it’s a computer, depending on your speed consider that there is a distance, safety distance. So sometimes when you are quite fast, like 100mph or maybe 80, it will say, I need this distance. And the guy behind you who is driving has no autonomous system. He will say, hey, why is this guy doing, he is a, I would say half a mile behind the bus or the truck on the expressway. He will try to overtake you from the right and directly in front of you. And then your system is I have to break under an emergency, and then you are an accident behind you. So the compatibility between human drivers and computer driven cars, we need at least one generation to replace.

And when everything will be automatized, it will be perfect when you go to some areas where we have automatized thing, like if you go with some robots, if you go to an Amazon warehouse, for example, you have all robots taking the things, putting in the box and delivering to the trucks. Imagine you put a human in the middle going in front of the robots and the robot because they have radars integrated. If you run in front, it will stop immediately because it’s safety, while if it is a guy on a small, I would say, Fenwick you say, oh, it’s okay, the guy who should have an accident, but he will… Because we are human beings. So this is why, to your point, John, the technology is ready. The integration in technology in the existing, I would say roads with human driving the other cars.

It’s a hell of a challenge for the computer. I mean, the computer my shoe is shoe, and it’s impossible to calculate all the things, because in those cars you have radar and LiDARs, so they are like a spider. They check everything with the radar on the left or the right, in front or the rear. And there are so many things even pedestrians or kids crossing the street behind his football bars, et cetera. So the system is very great to avoid any safety issue because it takes always a bumper between the risk and you. So it’s safe. But then other people have to respect it is as if I take an example that everybody will understand. If you walk on a on a sidewalk in winter and you have ice on the sidewalk, you will be very cautious.

John: Right?

Bertrand: But if you are too cautious because, okay, you don’t want to break your legs, maybe the guy behind will say, oh, what John is doing, this guy is doing, you should run like I have to run because I’m late to my job and this guy might push you because he say I need to, while if it is a computer that is taking care of you, it will say, okay, everybody should walk very slowly because it’s dangerous because temperature, ice, blah, blah, blah is slippery. So these kind of things again, is compatibility between computers and people brains. It doesn’t match very well. So again, technology exists. Cost is something interesting also because the LiDAR is something like $7,000. So in addition to the cost of the car. And finally what is the benefits? Because if it is to drive just to take your bread or your meat, at the butchery, is it something that you are ready to pay? Not sure. Not sure.

John: Bertrand, I know you are very proud of, and you are passionate about the Freedom of Mobility forum. Talk a little bit about what are your hopes and dreams for the future of the forum, as it continues to grow and make a big impact in the ongoing safe space discussion of the future of mobility.

Bertrand: So our ambition again is really to enlarge the debates, a global debate with people from different generations, different origin, different needs, towards mobility. So our ambition is to have an even better reach, to embark more people on the discussion, either to follow the yearly events, which lasts something like 2 hours with the presentation of facts and debates, et cetera, and follow up, and also to encourage people to read more the different contribution from different stakeholders on different topics around mobility. I think it’s a source of… It’s food for thought for individuals and to say, okay, I make my mind because I can be sure that when I go there, there is no, I would say no stupid things, no dogmatic way not to preach for anything. We are here just to [crosstalk]

John: It’s a safe space.

Bertrand: Everything could be proven. Everything, all the data are checked. So you have, you are sure that you are not… You cannot be trapped. And we’re not here to influence. We are here to feed the thought of people so that what we… Our ambition with the forum. The more people will follow this, the more people will spread what they get from the forum, the more they might influence the decision maker in the society to one direction, to another one. But what is important is we want really to enhance the debates, the citizen debates, and not the customer debates, which is totally different. So because today we are here to try to put our share to the proposal of what will be the society of tomorrow for our kids and grandkids. What is the promise of mobility that we want to them?

I have a son who is living in Cambodia, is 26 years old, I mean, Amsterdam. So when he was in Europe with his friends, he was students. So he said, “Well, I take a low cost company. Next weekend we are in Roma. The following one we are in Barcelona and then in London, and we have a hotel or Airbnb et cetera. for nothing.” If you book that 4 months ahead, you pay 3 bucks for the night and then 10 bucks for the plane tickets. So for him, it was not an issue to move from here, to move from there. And you can see now that some people tend with ChatGPT, for example, saying, okay, I don’t need to move anymore. I can see with immersion with 3D glasses. I can feel even maybe the smell of an African elephant in Africa without traveling there.

So maybe that generation who was born with a screen, they spend the time on tablets, iPad, et cetera, to play on tablets. So the connection with that generation to the world is through a screen. So do we… Do you think that maybe that generation will accept to have the interaction with the world through a screen? I don’t need to travel anymore. I prefer to stay home and just look with an immersive experience, rather because frankly speaking, John, if you go to visit San Paulo, for example, you have 2 days. Is it better that you go there? You take a train, a plane, sorry. So in a week, you almost take 2 days way in, way out with the plane. So 2 days remaining, 5 days. So you will look at the guides.

I go there and meet et cetera. Okay, but if you were to spend the same week looking at the screen, maybe you can discover the full Brazil with a nice video testimony of people. You can maybe have a kind of attending a virtual dinner with a family in Brazil. And you can maybe ask question to those people with artificial intelligence. They will answer to your question without never meeting them. So the relationship to the people, to the others. Today, we do that through our mobility. We move ourselves to the people. Do you think maybe in 2 generations people will not move anymore, but they will be with the screen in between you and me?

John: Getting the same experience. That’s fascinating. But, you know, you just brought up a term that I want I need to ask you about. You know, Bertrand, obviously, since you’re a little boy, you love this. You love cars and automobiles and mobility. And now, as an adult, you’re sitting in a fascinating and wonderful platform of one of the biggest car manufacturers on the planet of so many wonderful brands. Talk just for a little bit, the issue of this massive trend, this massive opportunity of AI when it comes to the design, the build, the manufacture and then the customer experience, how much of that impact on are you very excited about the future of mobility with regards to the impact of AI on design, build, manufacture and the customer experience when it comes to mobility?

Bertrand: I think I could help us to be even more efficient in terms of time, time frame to develop the car, because today you have engineers simulation. Should we continue to test the car on, in the North Pole, South pole in the desert hot, cold or maybe you can drive the car with computers, in simulators, with the hot weather, cold weather, rain, et cetera. The model could be managed by artificial intelligence. First thing second, we could imagine that artificial intelligence will help us. I take just an example.

So that everybody will understand we have software ways, for example, before that, what did you do? You were listening to the radio traffic jam here. So okay, I go left, I go right, you get lost. And you were arguing with your wife saying, “Why did you get out of the expressway? We are lost now in the middle of the city. We don’t know.” Today, I would say artificial intelligence is taking all the inputs from different cars. Taking, advising you to take on the left or the right, stay on the expressway. Even the traffic jam. Better to stay here rather than to cross the city.

It will be even longer. So you see today already artificial intelligence will improve that and help us in our in our mobility. When you go in the morning out of your house, you can say, okay, I will go to work and maybe the system will say, today there is a big accident. Don’t take your car, take the bus, the walk, the bus, the train, the bus, and the walk to your office. Maybe this system will say that and advise you. And I think it will be a personal assistant to your life.

John: Understood.

Bertrand: And for us in our industry, it’s always artificial intelligence is not here to replace people, is here to advise people so that they spend more time not on analyzing, but on this, on making decision.

John: Understood.

Bertrand: Because ChatGPT is not deciding. It’s not inventing. Everything is here to grasp things, to aggregate things, to put that in the screen so that you have a kind of reader digest of the data that you would have used to search. Even in…

John: It’s going to be another tool for your engineers and your designers, your manufacturing facilities to deploy to just make mobility a better experience and get it to market faster.

Bertrand: Yeah. And, you know, I have a friend of mine who has invented a virtual platform to support the better treatment for people in the US. So he started when he lost his mother from a concert, he came to the conclusion that she was not well treated and not enough treated in terms of speed. And because he’s very clever guy much more ratio 1 to 1000 compared to me. And he said I will make a mathematical models. And it was 10 years ago. And so it will search every publication about this kind of concert, et cetera.

It will search all the advice publication of people about these professors that professors, these hospitals, that hospital, this medicine, this research conclusion, et cetera. And if you are confronted to that disease with that subscription, it can tell you in your case, I would advise this kind of treatment. You should explore this kind of treatments with that hospital and maybe with a read that publication and doing so it could prove that it is 30% faster and almost 40% cheaper because you don’t lose your time with things here, radio here, useless thing before you find as you search and you find what you search for. And he has developed this model, he has found the company.

And now now he is working with the insurance, health insurance. And he has 9 million subscribers in US. His company evaluated something like €300 million dollars with this idea using kind of artificial intelligence to help, not in mobility but in health care. Because you see, I really trust that artificial intelligence is not a threat. It’s a way to things better and faster.

John: So, Bertrand, I can’t let you go today without asking you about your wonderful brand, Stellantis, where you’re the chief communication and CSR officer of. Talk a little bit about what’s coming up in the future that you’re really excited about for Stellantis?

Bertrand: So what is exciting with tonight is we have a portfolio of 14 brands. As I told to you, John, in the beginning. So I mean, we have 14 different ways to experience mobility. If we go with Jeep it’s outdoor, it’s free, it’s zero emission freedom for Jeep, for example, because you can do outdoor on tracks with the electric Jeep. We will launch a Jeep electric Jeep next year, starting with US, a brand full electric SUV. And we plan also, you know, we invest more than 50 billion in electrification in the next decade, minimum. With Gigafactories new Bev offering, we plan to launch 75 models, pure Bev model before the end of this decade.

So, you know, what is interesting is that we will have the products. We hope that the customer and we do our best to make it affordable. And that means that we are not alone, because Stellantis has brands, but also competitors are offering, of course, but the industry has put on the market and will put on the market a lot of solutions and models from small cars, small electric cars. For example, in Europe we have one car which is a very tiny cute car which is Citroen Ami two seater, two metres. So it’s very small one and the cost is, should be something like €7,000.

John: Wow.

Bertrand: Electric, pure electric. Just a city car. Something like 30mph range of 40km, 40 miles sorry. And this is very affordable. If we go to the opposite, we have big SUV and those SUV when they will be electric… And even we have… We will launch Maserati electric, sports car electric with more than 1000 horsepower. Pure electric. And when you see that electricity, what is difference between IC and electric is that you have the torque is zero 100% immediately. So you have a cover super turbo, in electric cars you are back to your seats like in a rocket. And that means electricity is not something that will be boring.

No, it will be exciting. So this is why we are very confident that people will continue to enjoy to have mobility with fun with zero emission. So I think this is how our contribution to the society, and this is why I’m very convinced that engineers, science will provide breakthrough in technologies, et cetera. Same also in manufacturing, you know, we have the ambition to reduce our manufacturing cost by 40%, to be at par with IC so that people can change the IC in the near future by 26, with the equivalent of electric for the same price.

So in that case, people will say, okay, with a range of something with a decent charging network, it’s okay. And you know the problem? I think also something that we did not discuss about range anxiety. If you have an IC car with a tank of, I would say 50 litters, you can drive it for, I would say 300 miles and you say, oh, it’s almost empty. It’s not a problem. It will take me 3 minutes to fill it. But with the electric car, people say, oh, I have just a range of 300 miles. So to reassure customers, the trend is to say we put huge battery so you can have up to 500 miles. And some people start to say, I can be even better 800 miles and 1000 miles.

But at that time, what our engineer needs to design is toilets on board the cars, because you have to, you have too much range. And when you have to stop for a coffee or I would say, break, yeah, a small stop. I would say, to go to the toilets, for example. The time you go there a coffee and go to the track, take you 15 minutes with that, you can charge your car with additional 40 miles, 50 miles just with 15 minutes. So you don’t need to recharge to the full capacity of the battery.

John: Right.

Bertrand: It’s a different way to say how much energy I need to reach my final destination, and not to arrive at the final destination with my tank or my battery full. When you go today, you travel, you go in a motel, you park your car, you have… You are on the reserve. You go and sleep the day after you have to go in the morning. Why is transportation? I have to fill my trunk. Okay. When you have an electric car, you arrive at the hotel. You sleep. When you sleep, the car is charging itself in the morning. You don’t need to plug. You plug and you go away.

So it’s a different way to have a journey is the approach to the journey will be totally different. So this is why I think we really are convinced that people will continue to have fun with with mobility objects. It would be a small army, a bigger electric trucks or et cetera. Big SUV electric et cetera. So there is room for fun with zero carbon and this is what we aim to do. Because again, the problem… And I think something important also, people have to think about the difference between CO2 emission and global warming and pollution. CO2 is not the pollutant. While you speak while I speak we emit CO2.

John: Right?

Bertrand: If we go to do a jogging, we emit much more CO2 than being seated on our chairs. So do we have to limit the speed of jogging to limit the emission of people? So it is something to think about. And while if you emit CO2 in New York and me in Amsterdam, we contribute to the global warming with our cars. When you drive your car and my car, okay, it’s not pollution in New York or in Amsterdam. Pollution is local. A global warming is global. Wherever you emit CO2, you can be in South Africa. The effect could be in North Pole because it’s global warming.

While the pollution is I would say next street if you emit with the exhaust pipe some some particles et cetera, or polish pollutants, it’s local. It’s not in the desert there is no pollution, I would say. So you see, the different people should not confuse a global warming and CO2 emission and pollution. This is why, again with electric mobility, we have to make sure that we do not transfer the CO2 emission, which are zero when we use our car. If you plug something to a coal station power station, then the CO2 emission is not in your car, but it is in the in the power, coal power plants to produce the energy. So, you know, these people have to understand that movement is about energy.

And again, we started our discussion. Everything starts from clean energy to have a clean mobility and a clean society because it’s for your computer, it’s for your printers, it’s for your lights, your bulbs, et cetera. So if you want to move to a carbon free world it is something that we have to think globally and not silo by silo. And at the end, our planets, we say that we need to make great effort of decarbonisation. And, for example, the Stellantis will be the first car maker in the world to achieve carbon net zero by 2038. All scope one, two and three, everything carbon neutral. And that means that we have to think about our factories. We have to think about the cars for the use of our customers, our suppliers. We change totally our business model. But this is an ambition because we need to do that for the rest. But if everybody is doing that at the end, our planet, what we speak is to limit the global warming to one degree 1.5°C.

John: Right?

Bertrand: But if everybody is moving, producing, manufacturing, whatever, living without CO2 emission, first of all, we need to have a lot of wind, a lot of sun to make the source of clean energy. And that means that we… if we won’t produce any more CO2 except our breathe then is it to that limit that you have to go? Because the planets, the trees need a carbon. They need CO2 to raise because the leaves are made of carbon capture. So if we do not, we were not to emit any CO2 on this planet, starting with stopping breathing.

Then maybe the forest would disappear. So you see, there is a… By principle, a counter effect at the end of things. So we have to be all committed for ourselves and the next generation to be reasonable and to be the minimum elevation of temperatures. So meaning CO2, global emission. But our planet needs CO2. Again, it’s not a pollutant because the forest needs CO2 for photosynthesis. It’s just as basic as that. So but of course, I think that in a planet and I just give you a glimpse of next year, a Freedom of Mobility topic which we will liaise the mobility topic because I cannot make… My team will kill me, but because we have a good conversation. I want to give you some hints.

John: Well, here’s the deal, Bertrand. You know, as you and I know, sustainability and technology is… There’s no finish line. It’s an evolution. Now, and I want you to feel comfortable. I want you to be invited to come back on the show and continue this discussion because, you know, I want you to continue to share the success and the great debates and conversations you’re having at the Freedom of Mobility forum, because that’s very important. But also to continue to share the journey of Stellantis in the electrification and decarbonization of the planet. But like you said, we have to look at the whole ecosystem. This isn’t just a binary discussion that, oh, we have to get rid of all carbon at all costs, and we have to do it as fast as possible. Like you said, there has to be a lot of other things included in this.

Bertrand: You’re right, John. When we speak, we are something like 6 billion inhabitants on this planet.

John: Yeah.

Bertrand: If we have regular meeting, maybe if we liaise again in 2 years, 3 years will be maybe 7 billion and maybe falling back 8 and 9 billion. So I think United Nations thinks that we might be something like 9 billion inhabitants of this planet by 2035. So in 10 years down the road, so additional 3 billions to eat, breathe and need to move. So what we say today will be exponential because we cannot say to the baby born sorry, you have no right to mobility. Give it to your parents and grandparents. When you will be old, you will be allowed to move.

John: Right.

Bertrand: So you see it’s a never ending story because we are just following the history of humanity. And part of it is about because we speak about people who suffer from starvation, et cetera, food, water, access to food, access to water. But access to mobility is one part of the citizen rights.

John: That’s right.

Bertrand: And maybe some people will say, I need a share of mobility. And you, the people of the North, I would say from Europe, from US through your mobility, you have contributed to the state of this planet. This is why the global warming is because of you. It’s not because of me, because there are no mobility. So I need now to access to the same kind of things. So are you okay to reduce your mobility in the sense to share the mobility with the salespeople? It was part of the discussion of the first debate. So it’s beyond the technology and the thinking of things because we are on the same planet. So are we ready? We, the people from the so-called developed countries.

John: Right.

Bertrand: To reduce things so that we can share more with people who are just starting to access to mobility.

John: Right, interesting.

Bertrand: And this kind of thing is, again, if we want to develop the economies of countries in Africa, for example, in Europe we have a confronted with a lot of immigration from Africa. So it’s a big debate in Europe. But if we develop the economy in Africa, people will have a job, a good life. They want… They will even not think to go to to Europe except for vacation. So it’s just totally the thing. But to develop those countries industry, mobility, et cetera, that means those people will emit CO2 because it does not exist today.

So to create that, it’s always the amount which is the same at the end. It’s a balance more here, less here and more here and less here. Because the ability of our planet to absorb in a world of 6 billion will be totally different in a in a world of 9 billion. So see how to feed the needs of additional 3 billion of people on our planet, not only for water, for food, but also for ability. It’s part of the basic needs of people.

John: Well, Bertrand, I want you to come feel free to come back on this show and continue the discussion in mobility, the freedom of mobility, and also all the great brands that you represent and how you’re getting like you said, 50 billion, that’s USD or that’s Euro you’re going to be spending? USD?

Bertrand: Yeah, USD.

John: Yeah, USD. So I want you to come back on the Impact Show and continue the journey that you’re on. And for our listeners and viewers to find Bertrand and his colleagues and all the great work they’re doing at Stellantis, please go to Also, please check out the Freedom of Mobility. We’ll have the link in the show notes Bertrand Blaise. It’s been an honor and a privilege to have you on today the Impact Podcast. Obviously you’re brilliant, but I’m so appreciative for all the brands that you and your colleagues represent and making the world a better place together. Thank you so much.

Bertrand: We try. Thank you John. Thank you to everybody who have be listening to this conversation. And again, I encourage you to see and make your own thinking about this issue because today it’s an issue that requires solutions.

John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry. With thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs and business leaders, Engage is the go to spot for booking talent for speeches, custom experiences, live streams and much more. For more information on Engage or to Book Talent Today, visit This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States, and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit