Chrysler likes its Italian job
The merger with Fiat will bring only gradual change, writes NEIL McDONALD
DON’T expect the folk at Chrysler Australia to start learning Italian just yet. Despite the merger last week with the giant Fiat group, local operations will continue as usual, Chrysler Australia managing director Gerry Jenkins says.
‘‘I see no immediate changes to our local operations,’’ he says. ‘‘The future looks bright.’’
Chrysler Australia distributes Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles here. Fiat is distributed by the Sydney-based Ateco Group.
Jenkins foresees no distribution changes. ‘‘We’re excited about the alliance and at the end of the day this industry is all about bringing great product to market.’’
Fiat Group chief executive Sergio Marchionne will be the new chief executive officer. Jim Press, formerly one of Chrysler’s two presidents, will be his deputy.
‘‘We intend to build on Chrysler’s culture of innovation and Fiat’s complementary technology,’’ Marchionne says.
He revealed Chrysler will have a new product plan, including several models developed by Fiat, within 90 days.
For Chrysler Australia, it may mean access to a range of newer, smaller cars, underpinned by platforms from the Fiat stable.
Chrysler’s Asia-Pacific business, including Australia, is one of the few bright spots in the company. Australia is Chrysler’s largest righthand-drive market and the No.1 Jeep Wrangler market outside North America.
The deal gives Fiat entry to the lucrative North American market for its cars.
Fiat could also leverage its Case-New Holland truck and its agricultural and construction business to push Fiat commercials into North America.
Chrysler will also benefit from Fiat’s management expertise in business turnaround and access to Fiat’s international distribution network, especially in Latin America and Russia.
The merger makes the combined FiatChrysler group the sixth-largest carmaker in the world and ends months of speculation over the loss-making US carmaker’s future.
However, the return of Fiat and Alfa Romeo to North America faces hurdles, not the least of which is a hangover from the days when Italian cars had a poor reputation for quality.
Alfa Romeos have not been sold in the US since 1995, and Fiats since 1983. Both pulled out of the US market because of poor sales and reliability problems.
The first vehicle expected to be built under the new owners is the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is due out in the US in the middle of next year with running gear based on the Mercedes-Benz ML.
Chrysler head: Sergio Marchionne.