Fiat is an international name. It’s the Italian car manufacturer par excellence. But its entry into the American market was a bit controversial.
After the worldwide economic crisis of 2008, some companies saw opportunities instead of hardships. Fiat was one of them.
When an opportunity shows
Famous businesses like Ford, GM, and Chrysler almost disappeared. Thanks to the government’s financial intervention, GM and Chrysler survived. They filed Chapter 11, legally declaring bankruptcy. That’s when Fiat saw an opportunity. And the CEO and chairman, Sergio Marchionne, started negotiations with then President Barack Obama.
Marchionne struck a deal that put Fiat in charge of Chrysler. Hence, ending the bankruptcy. A foreigner now owned an American company. A bit unheard of, but not impossible.
Fiat had experience
Not experience in the car industry, but experience in “near death” situations. In fact, the Italian government had rescued it at the beginning of the 21st century. And many times after that. So, Fiat had experience in handling difficult scenarios and in dealing with governments. Fiat also knew how to deal with unions, thanks to its Italian counterparts.
Also, the latest generations of the Agnelli family hold American passports. This makes it easier for them to play in both countries, especially legally.
Changing it up
The industrial plan has changed the way companies manufacture and sell cars. Fiat implemented a new line of production, more efficient and economically wise. And it focused on famous names, like American-built Jeep. And two more iconic cars, both Italian. Indeed, the Fiat 500 and the Alfa Romeo.
One is the Fiat 500, a small utility car that seems to perfectly fit the new American trend of going smaller and more energy cautious. The 500 has style and great design, an edgy car that is doing very well in Europe and ready to conquer United States. The second is the brand Alfa Romeo, an Italian institution widely recognized by Americans and owned by Fiat. These three together will initiate a great comeback of the company that brought the Spider, made famous by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.
Fiat and Chrysler are also studying an entirely new network of dealerships where the cars will be sold all together under a new great corporation umbrella which is shaping up in Detroit. Chrysler is still in Chapter 11 and the road is still very long, but the directions taken seems to be the right ones.
Chrysler has come back from death once before; an Italian American, Lee Iacocca, was the master behind that operation and therefore it seems only natural that Italy come back into the picture one more time. The near future will tell us the results of this Italian American venture, the first at such a high level that consolidates even further the strong and special relationships that connect Italy and the U.S. since Columbus discovered the land and Vespucci gave his name to it.
In July 2018, Sergio Marchionne died and was replaced as FCO CEO by Michael Manley.