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Chrysler Will Be a Key Player in Fiat's Ambitious Five-Year Plan

By KBB.com Editors on April 22, 2010 11:51 AM
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Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne used a seven-hour-long 2010 Investor Day meeting in Turin, Italy, to outline details of his company's upcoming 2010-2014 business plan. In addition to offering this extended look ahead, the man who also serves as the head of Chrysler Corporation revealed some operational changes that impact the structure of the two automakers and confirmed several top-level personnel changes that also will be pivotal in determining the position Fiat finds itself in during the critical years ahead.

Restructuring the Fundamentals

The first order of business on Marchionne's to-do list involves remaking the unwieldy Fiat Group into a more rational and ultimately more profitable entity. Under the new construct, which Marchionne refers to as a "de-merger," Fiat S.p.A. will control Fiat, Ferrari, Maserati and the 20 percent of Chrysler it now owns as well as Fiat's various automotive component manufacturers while spinning off a separate organization to be called Fiat Industrial that will run its truck, bus, agricultural and commercial operations.

In addition to this restructure, Marcihonne reiterated news that John Elkmann, Fiat's deputy chairman and 34-year-old U.S.-born heir to the Agnelli family -- the dynasty that founded and still controls the Fiat organization -- will succeed Luca di Montezemolo who has served as Chairman of the firm since 2004. Interestingly enough, it was Elkmann who hired Marchionne to help save Fiat's floundering operation during that same year. While stepping away from Fiat, Montezemolo will reportedly continue on as the head of Ferrari, a post he also has held since 2004.

More Exotic Dreams for Ferrari and Maserati

The sexiest part of the Fiat grand plan involves upcoming new vehicles from Ferrari and Maserati aimed at broadening their overall buyer appeal and make them more distinct and more profitable in the process. Marchionne said Maranello will bring no fewer than six new or revised models to market by 2014, starting with a replacement for the 612 Scagletti and a spider version of the 458 California in 2011. A 599 GTB Fiorano successor and a "new special series" iteration of the legendary Enzo supercar (think street-legal FXX) are due in 2012 while a facelifted California and a even-more intense "Scuderia"-spec 458 are slated for 2013. Ferrari also will launch its first-ever hybrid model at some point, although exactly what powertrain it will have and whether offered in the next 599 or the 612 successor remains unknown. Fiat's other primo brand, Maserati, will introduce a new, less costly performance sedan priced below _55,000/($74,000) and aimed at the Audi RS6, BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.

Closer Ties Between Alfa-Romeo, Chrysler And Lancia

On a more real world level, Marchionne told those in attendance that Fiat plans include a far greater integration of Alfa-Romeo, Chrysler and Lancia. In addition to confirming that Fiat intends to up its holding in the U.S. automaker from 20 to 35 percent within two years, he sees the future of Chrysler as being critical to Fiat, both in platform sharing and in the ability to reap maximum economies of scale by combining the overall procurement functions.

As for product, Marchionne said Alfa will return to America in 2012 and have its marketing integrated with Maserati dealers. First on the scene will be the mid-size Giulia sedan and wagon plus a compact SUV to be built here using Giullietta hatchback mechanicals. In 2013, a five-door version of the slick MiTo will hit U.S. showrooms along with a new Alfa Romeo Spider that could be built here but will be based on a Chrysler platform. In 2014, a new Giullietta hatchback will arrive as well as a larger SUV spun from Jeep Liberty architecture and also built in the U.S. As for Fiat product in America, in addition to the existing two-door Fiat 500 due later this year and its subsequent various iterations, we can also expect to see a new four-door hatch model at some point. Both are expected to be spun from a new and slightly larger and more robust Fiat-based platform.

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