May 06, 2009
Don't Get Much More Official Than That

Everyone please stand for the fat lady to sing her song:

Chrysler LLC today announced that, as a result of the comprehensive restructuring plan agreed to by many of its stakeholders, it has reached an agreement in principle to establish a global strategic alliance with Fiat SpA to form a vibrant new company. It will allow Chrysler and Fiat to fully optimize their respective manufacturing footprints and the global supplier base, while providing each with access to additional markets. Fiat powertrains and components will also be produced at Chrysler manufacturing sites.

The MSM is finally glomming onto the fact that Fiat really never has made particularly sturdy cars. Truth is, Italians don't consider screwing a car together correctly all that important. Design, beauty, performance, and heritage are all far more important. If it means the trim falls off, well trim doesn't make it go faster now, does it?

Thing is, Americans will put up with a surprising amount of this sort of foolishness as long as they feel they're being taken care of, and the whatever it is doesn't keep breaking the same thing over and over again. Fiat's quality is supposed to have picked up dramatically in just the past four years or so. Will it be enough? Who knows?

I'm just happy they're back!

Posted by scott at May 06, 2009 07:18 PM

eMail this entry!

FIAT = "Fix It Again, Tony"

I think you are being unjustly unkind to us Americans. While clearly beauty, design, performance and 'heritage' (whatever that means) and all the attending virtues are an Italian priority, they are also an American priority. After all, the hideous Scion Brick is not an American manufacture...

The difference is, to be able to ENJOY all those virtues, the automobile in question needs NOT BE IN THE FRIGGIN' SHOP being repaired allatime!!

Posted by: mark on May 7, 2009 07:01 AM

Didn't mean to sound harsh. One of the challenges of the American market is its diversity. There are many niche markets, the trick is finding yours and staying profitable within its confines.

And I'll stand behind my assertion... most Italians are willing to put up with fragile cars of questionable reliability as long as they have style, sophisticated design, and a history that goes back decades. Most Americans are not willing to put up with fragile, unreliable cars, at least not to the extent of the Italian.

Yes, Americans do value high style, good design, and sophisticated engineering. Some are even willing to put up with fiddly, fragile cars to get them. The trick to staying profitable is making the cars solid enough to broaden their appeal to a larger consumer base, leading to profitability.

Here's to hoping they succeed!

Posted by: scott on May 7, 2009 07:17 AM

Scott: That is a very good point. To an American, attractiveness is something you pay extra to get; you expect reliability. A typical American-market economy car is as bland as sauceless pasta, but you never, ever have to guess about whether it'll start up in the morning...

Posted by: DensityDuck on May 7, 2009 12:36 PM

About ten years ago, Pat Braden, a *major* Alfisti who worked for Hundai at the time, said the following is what would be needed to get Alfa to work in the US, based on what it took to get Hundai accepted:

* 10 year bumper-to-bumper warranty
* On-site pickup of car and delivery of loaner vehicle (they come & pick it up wherever it is, and drop off a loaner wherever you are).
* Incentives for dealers with stellar performance and penalties for those without.

From what I've learned later about the US market (see The Culture Key, can't recall the author right now), this is EXACTLY what will let them succeed. I'm not sure I can think of anyone I know who'd turn down a pretty Italian car if it came with a deal like that, if the price was right.

Can they do it, and remain profitable? No idea. WILL they do it? I'd hope to see something *like* it. But I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: Scott on May 7, 2009 12:45 PM
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