Chrysler likes its Ital­ian job

The merger with Fiat will bring only grad­ual change, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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