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Fiat May Move HQ from Italy to US

Rumored move could follow Italian maker’s complete merger with Chrysler.

by on May.17, 2013

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has some critical decisions to make in the coming months.

With Fiat SpA hoping to wrap up its takeover of Chrysler LLC sometime this year, the maker appears to be thinking over what could be an equally significant step, the possible move of its corporate headquarters from Italy to the U.S.

Marchionne recently indicated he’d like to switch from having Fiat, Italy’s largest manufacturer, listed on the Milan exchange and instead traded on the New York Stock Exchange. But several sources say the Canadian-educated executive is also giving serious thought to basing the merged automaker out Chrysler’s sprawling campus in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills.

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It would be a sharp blow for recession-plagued Italy, but perhaps no surprise despite the fact that Fiat has been headquartered in the northern industrial city of Turin since it was founded in 1899 as Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino.


First Look: Fiat 500X

Maker set to add CUV as third model.

by on Jul.06, 2012

Fiat has offered a first look at what is expected to be the third model line in its growing U.S. line-up, a small crossover it is calling the 500X.

The unveiling came as a surprise to journalists who had been invited to Turin, Italy for the formal launch of the Fiat 500L, a 5-door hatchback that the maker plans to bring to the U.S. in 2013.  Fiat officials had previously hinted that another product was coming but refused to reveal details until lifting the covers in Turin on a silver concept vehicle.

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Tim Kuniskis, who took over as Fiat’s second U.S. brand boss last year, following a disastrously slow debut of the Italian brand, has told on several occasions that there would be more products coming – but he has also emphasized that Fiat will remain focused on small vehicles in the B-car segment.

Beyond that, Fiat officials had little to say about the 500X prototype they revealed in Turin.  But it is expected to be powered by several versions of the Italian makers MultiAir engine family – starting with a 0.9-liter turbocharged version for the European market that makes 104 hp, and a 84 hp 1.3-liter turbodiesel.  An American version of the crossover would likely share the turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir gas engine producing 101 hp, as well as the 160-hp version now offered in the Fiat 500 Abarth edition.

Reports from Europe suggest the 500X will measure about 13 feet, nose-to-tail, and that the new model will feature optional all-wheel-drive, much like the similarly sized Mini Countryman.

The 500X is expected to follow the 500L into production for Europe later this year, then follow the 4-door to the U.S. market in 2013.

It is expected to help Fiat not only expand its appeal but to specifically target the popular Mini brand.  That British marque has steadily expanded its own range of offerings and this week announced it will add a seventh product line, the Mini Paceman, next year.

(For more on the Paceman announcement, Click Here.)

Fiat currently offers a range of variants of the brand’s smallest model, the 500, including a standard coupe, a convertible and that higher-performance Abarth edition.

The Abarth has proved highly popular since making its American debut in mid-spring.  Fiat has had to advise dealers it will no longer take orders for the 2012 model.  It is planning to boost capacity for the 2013 model-year.

Abarth’s added momentum has helped Fiat’s U.S. dealers generate overall sales 20,706 units for the first half of 2012 – more than the brand sold in all of 2011.  The maker had originally forecast volume closer to 50,000 for that first year on the market, a number it now could hit this year.


Fiat Could Close Two Plants if U.S. Return Fails

Marchionne confirms Alfa still coming to the States.

by on Feb.27, 2012

Fiat's revival in the U.S. -- as well as its operations in Italy -- could depend on the reception Americans give to the Alfa Romeo 4C.

Despite a slow start, Fiat is still betting it can stage a successful return to the U.S. market – or else, warns CEO Sergio Marchionne.  The alternative would force the closure of two of the maker’s Italian assembly plants.

The good news for Fiat is that most of its plants outside Europe – and those operated by its American partner Chrysler – are operating at full speed struggling to keep up with demand as the global economy recovers. The problem is Europe, where a weak economy has depressed the automotive market and the only way to justify keeping Fiat’s five remaining plants in Italy open is to build up exports.

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But demand in the U.S. for the maker’s little Fiat 500 sedan barely reached half the initial 50,000-unit target last year and, during a media roundtable last month, Marchionne said he doesn’t expect to see it push much higher than 30,000 in North American this year.  But some analysts think even that will be a stretch and warn Fiat’s attempt to rebuild its U.S. distribution network will fail.


Fiat Sales Target Cut in Half

Marchionne may “shift resources” from Italy to Detroit.

by on Jan.09, 2012

Chrysler and Fiat were "incredibly naive" in their sales forecasts, admitted Marchionne.

Chrysler is sharply scaling back its plans for the U.S. roll-out of the Italian Fiat brand following an unexpectedly slow launch last year, but Sergio Marchionne, who serves as CEO of both sides of the trans-Atlantic Chrysler-Fiat alliance, insists that the shortfall does not mean the Italian brand has failed in its bid to return to the U.S. market after a decades-long absence.

In a roundtable session with reporters during the 2012 North American International Auto Show, Marchionne said he expects to cut by roughly half the number of cars Fiat expects to sell in the U.S. until it can better establish itself with additional products beyond the pint-sized Fiat 500 that debuted a little over a year ago — admitting the initial forecasts were “incredibly naive.”

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In a wide-ranging conversation, the Canadian-educated executive also noted that given the ongoing problems with Europe’s economy – as well as resistance to change by Italian unions — he is given serious thought to moving more of Fiat’s headquarters operations to the U.S.

The one thing Marchionne said he has “not a single doubt about,” 30 months after Fiat helped pull Chrysler out of bankruptcy, is that “Fiat needs Chrysler as much as Chrysler needs Fiat.”


Fiat Turns to Gucci as 500 Falls Short in U.S.

Maker to add high-style model of minicar.

by on Aug.17, 2011

Two Italian icons come together as Fiat launches the latest version of its minicar, the 500 Gucci edition.

Fiat’s latest version of the little 500 minicar will make its debut on the runway rather than the auto show stage, the high-style Gucci edition debuting on September 8th during New York’s annual Fashion Week, a week ahead of the annual Frankfurt Motor Show where many of the maker’s other new product will be unveiled.

Attracting fashionistas will be critical for the Italian automaker which is in the midst of its re-launch in a U.S. market it had abandoned two decades earlier.  But despite the upcoming introduction of yet another version of the Fiat 500, investors are growing concerned that the maker’s American revival isn’t going as well as planned.

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Fiat shares fell by as much as 6% in Italy on Tuesday, reflecting mounting concerns about the sales shortfall for the 500 in the States.  Through the end of July, American motorists had purchased just 11,500 of the cars, making it increasingly unlikely Fiat can hit its 50,000 target for 2011.

Launched earlier this year in coupe form, Fiat revealed the convertible version of the minicar at the April New York Auto Show and will shortly add the Fiat 500 by Gucci, the most stylish – but also the most expensive version of the 4-seater yet.


Chrysler Appoints First Fiat Dealers

by on Oct.20, 2010

The Fiat 500 will begin rolling into the first U.S. showrooms by December.

As many as 119 U.S. dealers will shortly learn that they’ve been chosen from close to 1,000 applicants hoping to represent Italy’s Fiat brand as it prepares its return to the U.S. market.

The first of those retailers should be up and running before the end of the year, according to Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat’s American partner, with sales to begin in December with the launch of the Fiat 500 minicar.

The decision to go with outlets in 119 markets suggests that Fiat is taken its time before picking dealers. The brand originally stated a goal of having 165 stores operating in the U.S. by the end of 2011, and 200 in business further down the road.

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“We have carefully considered each of these dealer proposals looking for the best locations and the most creative plans,” said Peter Grady, Chrysler Group’s Vice President of Network Development and Fleet Operations. “We are thrilled with their level of interest in securing the Fiat franchise and in the innovative proposals they have submitted. We’re excited to be at the point where we now can start appointing our Fiat dealer network.”


Bucking Trends, Chrysler Builds A Broader Brand Portfolio

Fiat to meet with 600 potential new dealers.

by on Aug.13, 2010

Fiat will debut with the basic 500, then add models like this electric car. But can Chrysler support five different brands?

American automakers have been downsizing, especially when it comes to brands.

General Motors abandoned four of its eight North American marques as it emerged from bankruptcy, last year, and Ford Motor announced, earlier this Summer, that it would write off its struggling Mercury division after years of dithering over its role in the company.

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Chrysler was one of the first to downsize its divisional tally, doing away with the once-powerful Plymouth brand, back in 1999.  So why is the smallest and most troubled of Detroit’s Big Three suddenly moving in the opposite direction?  Despite the near-collapse of its sales and market share since it began discussing the possibility of bankruptcy, in 2008, Chrysler is actually expanding its brand count, with a major launch due for late this year.