Tuesday 20 February 2018

Why FIAT shouldn't have to fix it again

Merger: Fiat has already made moves to take control of Chrysler (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Merger: Fiat has already made moves to take control of Chrysler (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

IT made for sad reading. Not the fact that FIAT is no longer an Italian company as such. It was, rather, the paltry numbers of cars it is selling here.

The merger with Chrysler late last week was tinged with nostalgia but was forged from reality.

As you probably know Italy's largest manufacturer became part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. It will be incorporated under Dutch law, based in the UK and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

All of a sudden we have the world's seventh-largest automaker. I was struck by what chairman John Elkann (grandson of late Fiat mogul Gianni Agnelli) said: "The company's future begins now."

He never said a truer word. FIATs have been praised and criticised for so long. Its acronym for Fix It Again Tomorrow stemmed from its (often exaggerated) reputation for breaking down or, back in the day, not starting on a damp morning. But they have made some really good small cars: Punto and Panda spring to mind.

Flicking through the Irish registration numbers for sales up to the end of July made for my sad reading. I'm not saying they are replicated in other markets but it has been a massive decline here from the heady days of, or near, market leadership. Their biggest seller is the 500L with 79 registrations (up from 49 in the corresponding period in 2013); Panda 68 (39), 500c 14(3), QUBO 6 (4) and so on. Chrysler sold virtually nothing while Alfa's Giulietta managed 20.

Of course there hasn't been much by way of new product and some models show an increase, albeit off a really low base. I'm not a fan of some latter models but they do know how to make small cars.

So, for the sake of motorists's choice, competition and jobs on the ground, here's hoping they never have to fix it again tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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