How Stellantis is leveraging technology to reimagine the future of car ownership
About Stellantis: Stellantis is a leading global mobility player guided by a clear mission: to provide freedom of movement for all through distinctive, appealing, affordable and sustainable mobility solutions. The group owns and operates a breadth of iconic brands including Fiat, Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, OPEL, Peugeot, Citroën, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, among others. With 400,000 employees worldwide, the group has industrial operations in over 30 countries and is present in over 130 markets around the globe.
About Flua!: Flua! is Stellantis’ new mobility company offering zero-kilometre Fiat and Jeep car subscriptions service. The new digital venture was launched in January 2021 in Brazil and takes inspiration from other car-as-a-service business models within the group such as Free2Move and Leasys.
Interview with Fabio Siracusa
FI: Hi Fabio, please tell us about your background and how that led you to become the Head of Operations at Flua!?
Fábio: I always dreamed of working in the automotive sector. Over 15 years I worked in several areas within supply chain management, both in B2B and B2C, for large multinationals such as Phillips, J&J, and Johnson Controls. Of all the experiences, I was delighted with demand planning focused on marketing to the final customer. I started to understand the profiles of buyers and to develop my expertise in demand planning, aimed at understanding the consumer’s mindset. I also had the opportunity to help a multinational to start its operations in Brazil, which was kind of a startup and that left me with a taste for entrepreneurial venture building in the corporate world.
I joined FCA (now Stellantis) 5 years ago, leading the demand planning function with a market focus. I believe that my previous experience, my orientation towards results and my constant curiosity, led the company’s leadership to bet on me to launch Flua! even without having previous experience in a similar business.
FI: Tell us about Flua!’s origin and what are the new venture’s main objectives & what success looks like in your mind?
Fábio: Flua! was not born overnight, but was the genesis of a process. We realized that a consumer profile is gradually becoming detached from car ownership while seeking the core benefits offered by the car as a mere means of transportation. Flua! came to address these pain points.
Everything we developed around branding, name, visual identity was created in house. Thus far, the market has praised it a lot. The automotive sector has been moving in this direction, we are not the only automaker doing this, but the competitive advantage lies in bringing differentiated skills from Stellantis to the new business.
Success for Flua! is to strengthen the contact and relationship with the consumer. Today, this interface with the customer goes through a lot of dealerships (dealers). With Flua!, we will reinforce this intimacy with the mobility consumers and also connect the customer throughout the journey of using cars through the Flua! App.
FI: What has it been like to lead the construction of a brand new business (a start-up effectively) within an established organization like Stellantis?
Fábio: Definitely interesting! Building a branded company from scratch in a large corporation has benefits such as the necessary funding and the fleet available for Flua!, in addition to structured processes and the weight of the equity of an established brand.
On the other hand, the disadvantages are in dealing with a traditional company. Regarding the openness to innovation, there is some necessary teaching along the way, which is one of our biggest challenges in the journey of Flua!. I knew it from day one, and we are working to make it all happen.
Even so, the journey is very rewarding, as we are building a new culture and every job offer we post generates tremendous buzz with many candidates applying. We enjoy great interest from people keen to be a part of creating a new offer and a new chapter in the company’s history. I constantly remind the team that the challenge of launching Flua!, by definition, has the chance of going wrong (otherwise, this would not be called the Valley of Death), but we all like working with the pressure of making things happen. A startup with this opportunity represents the challenge that I have always dreamed of having. We are on for a very fun ride!
FI: Since you mentioned the “death valley”, what increased your risk appetite at Stellantis with this new venture?
Fábio: In my view, Flua! could have been launched before, but we chose to evaluate and understand the business deeply before buying into the challenge. The risk exists and we are working daily to mitigate and minimize it within our business case. What is really decisive to guaranteeing the support of the top leadership is the size of the market opportunity: we either enter now, along with new incoming players or we enter later with most players already well consolidated and positioned. We want to help shape the market while there is still scope and space for that.
FI: What were the biggest challenges to date?
Fábio: One of the most challenging points, aside from widespread market obstacles (eg: the pandemic, etc.) is precisely understanding the customer’s mindset and behaviour. We know that the car subscription market is still incipient in Brazil, yet it tends to grow rapidly. Therefore, to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage it is key to understand consumer preferences, many of which are unrelated to the traditional moulds of car ownership. We know that customers want to buy cars online, but we also have to work with the current stakeholders within our industry, ensuring that dealerships also perceive value from this new business model. We are listening to the first customers to map their pain points and understand critical demands, adapting the product with agility. The autonomous car of the future will be used as a service, it will no longer be a product and Flua! helps us to track the changes that will lead to this transition.
FI: What has helped you throughout this journey?
Fábio: Just as I am on the project more out of intellectual curiosity and less due to deep market experience, other people were also allocated based on attitude and willingness to make it happen. There is a quote by Khalil Gibran that I like a lot: “A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle …”. We have some people with more experience in the market, in sales for example, but a good part of our team is rookies with incredible execution capacity, but they are rookies. As such, we had to enrol venture building expertise and tools to help us on this journey.
Our partnership with Founders Intelligence has helped us tremendously in the choices and learnings that we need to acquire in a short time to make Flua! viable with greater assertiveness and higher odds of getting it right the first time around.
FI: Thanks for the recognition and how do you feel that the Flua! team has benefited from the partnership with Founders Intelligence on this journey?
Fábio: In general, I don’t have many positive experiences with large, traditional consultancies. Typically, they are involved with the project but are not deeply committed to the cause. What I think is positive about Founders Intelligence is that your team really gets involved, gives objective feedback, points out if we can do things differently in real-time because you are in the trenches of the new venture with us. I really appreciate FI’s participation, and you are even changing my sceptical perceptions about consultancies. Your commitment to the project exhibited since day one is very relevant to us. When we signal that we need more hands-on help, we know that we can count on you.
FI: What have you been doing to create an entrepreneurial culture and a Founder mindset across the Flua! team?
Fábio: In Flua!’s culture we have to be laser-focused on delivery. Either we deliver results or the project can be jeopardized. If the business starts to present more risks and fewer gains, it can be cancelled overnight. Therefore, we are completely focused on what can generate more results and we need to do whatever is necessary to guarantee delivery with agility and efficiency.
FI: What advice would you give to fellow executives aiming to launch new ventures within existing corporations?
Fábio: Above all, it takes a great deal of personal humility. It is also critical to establish a level of humility with the founding team, setting clear expectations that we are going to test and learn about where we think there are greater chances of success.
Also, for executives launching new products in existing corporations, it is important for them to understand what ambition the company has. What do they aspire from this? Where do they want to go? What is the expected trajectory for five, ten years from now? These aspirations need to be clearly articulated in order to maintain all stakeholders duly aligned.
FI: What surprised you the most in this journey?
Fábio: The market already understood that the car subscription business model has great potential. This gives rise to some mixed reactions from different stakeholders. People realized that Flua! was bound to take off fast and I was surprised that I didn’t have to employ that much energy to convince people that this was a good idea and that the market tide is in our favour.
FI: Thanks for the conversation and for the ongoing partnership. We wish you and the entire Flua! team a lot of success!