Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Italy/US)

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was created in 2014 from the merger of Italian industrial giant Fiat with Chrysler Group of the US. It is the final stage in a long and often bumpy journey for both companies. Fiat has traditionally played a dominant role in the Italian economy. Roughly half of all cars on the road in Italy carry the Fiat badge, and the group once held a broad swathe of investments in other industrial sectors as well as the media. But the old order has changed. Fiat found its main car business under severe pressure in the early 2000s, largely as a result of its dependence on Europe in general and the Italian market in particular. Several attempts to bolster the business failed to prevent substantial losses, and the company came perilously close to bankruptcy. Fiat finally regained its stability by the end of 2007 and began looking actively at expansion into other areas, notably back to the US, a market it had quit altogether more than a decade earlier. The devastating problems experienced by Chrysler provided a perfect opportunity, and in 2009 Fiat was able to take management control of America's #3 carmaker. It spent the next few years negotiating to acquire the remaining shares as well, finally merging the two businesses completely at the beginning of 2014. The portfolio now houses US brands Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler alongside Italian brands Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Maserati. The majority of Fiat's non-automotive interests were demerged at the beginning of 2011 into a separate company; luxury brand Ferrari was spun off in 2016.

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Fiat Teksid
Lancia Magneti Marelli
Ferrari La Stampa
Iveco Fiat Commercial 
Alfa Romeo PubliKompass
Maserati CNH Global

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Mar 2017: Ads of the Week: "Fiat 500 60th Anniversary". The famed Fiat 500 celebrates its 60th birthday this year, and Fiat Auto owes much to its continued - or perhaps rather, renewed - popularity. After all, the Mini-style revamp of that one-time icon in 2008 laid the foundations for Fiat's more recent takeover of Chrysler. The new 500's advertising, especially in Europe, has always has favoured animation, and UK agency Krow has now unveiled this deeply trippy new spot from offbeat digital artist Cyriak, who was persuaded to rein in his usual dark fantasies for something rather more retro and playful.  

Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Mar 2016: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles began moves to divest its various media interests, agreeing outline terms of a deal to merge its Turin newspaper La Stampa with Gruppo L'Espresso, which owns Rome-based La Repubblica and news magazine L'Espresso. Fiat would end up with 16% of the merged entity. It said it would distribute that holding among its shareholders, along with its remaining 17% stake in another media group, RCS, which owns Corriere della Sera.

Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Nov 2015: Forbes published its 4th annual survey of the world's most influential chief marketing officers, in partnership with researcher ScribbleLive and LinkedIn. No big surprise about the #1 spot: Apple's Phil Schiller topped the list for the 4th consecutive year. However the next two places went to new entrants, KFC's Kevin Hochman and Kevin Crull of Sprint, while Fiat Chrysler's Oliver Francois jumped more than ten places to take the #4 spot. Beth Comstock, now vice chairman of General Electric, moved up to 5th. Two other new entrants were at #6 and #7, Nintendo's Scott Moffitt and BP's Geoff Morrell. Rounding out the top ten were Martine Reardon of Macy's, Unilever's Keith Weed and Volvo CMO Alain Visser.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Oct 2015: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles commenced its spin-off of luxury unit Ferrari with an IPO of around 10% of equity in that business. The issue price of $52 per share valued the iconic sports car manufacturer at $9.8bn, and the first day of secondary trading lifted that figure to well over $11bn. FCA plans to spin off the remaining 80% of Ferrari equity to its shareholders next year, which would leave the group's controlling Agnelli family with around a quarter of the business via their private investment vehicle, and 40% of voting rights. Piero Ferrari, son of the car marque's founder, still holds the remaining 10%.

Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Sep 2015: General Motors closed the door firmly on any possibility of a merger with smaller rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. For several months now, Fiat Chrysler's CEO Sergio Marchionne has been piling on the pressure for GM to consider the advantages of such a combination, which he believes would generate a big jump in combined profits and create a dynamic platform for new vehicles. It would also help the smaller company out of the difficult hole in which it finds itself, with Jeep doing spectacularly well globally, but the other brands treading water at best. Thanks but no thanks, said GM CEO Mary Barra. "There is no future in discussions," she told a press conference at the Frankfurt Auto Show. "This is not a new topic, and we have studied Mr Marchionne's proposals in detail and taken outside advice and decided that a deal is not the right thing for GM shareholders." An earlier partnership between GM and Fiat came apart at the seams a decade ago, and the US giant had to pay at least $1.5bn to extricate itself from the mess.


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Background

Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: The company Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, or FIAT, was founded in 1899 by a group of 30 shareholders, headed by entrepreneur Giovanni Agnelli. The company inaugurated its factory the following year, turning out 30 models of a 3.5 horsepower two-seater vehicle which travelled only forward -- there was no reverse gear. Two years later, the company launched a 24 horsepower model, the 24HP Corsa. By the time the 40 horsepower model launched in 1906, the business had expanded rapidly, even beginning to export models to the United States. As the power and range of Fiat's cars expanded, the company also turned its attentions to other vehicle lines, including trucks, railways and buses. To support his growing powerbase, Agnelli took a stake in Turin daily newspaper La Stampa in 1920, buying it outright six years later.

By the early 1940s, Fiat was one of Italy's three biggest companies, but its factories became a target for allied bombing during the first half of Second World War. Founder Giovanni Agnelli died in 1945, but under American occupation much of the group's business was rebuilt, and Fiat became an important force in the postwar reconstruction of Italy. By the 1960s, however, the company was feeling the pinch from imported cars, and it began to develop its international distribution. Under the control of the founder's grandson, Giovanni ("Gianni") Agnelli II, nicknamed "L'Avvocato" (the lawyer), the company established manufacturing plants in Russia, Poland and Brazil and broadened its portfolio with the acquisition of Lancia and Ferrari in 1969. Political problems ensued in the 1970s. The group sold a 10% stake to Libya's Colonel Gadaffi in 1976 (most of which was repurchased ten years later), and several top executives were targeted by Italian terrorist group Brigado Rosso. In 1979, Fiat merged its various domestic car businesses as Fiat Auto.

In the early 1980s, the company endured a series of crippling strikes, and took the decision to pull out of North America in 1983. However the launch of the Fiat Uno the same year began a turnaround in the company's fortunes. A proposed merger with Ford in 1985 failed to come to fruition, but Fiat combined its truck operation with part of Ford UK to form Iveco. (In a controversial move in 1997, Iveco closed its UK factory, moving production to Italy). A similar deal in the US in 1991 brought together Ford and Fiat's agricultural businesses to create New Holland.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Fiat built its portfolio, absorbing troubled state-owned Alfa Romeo in 1987 and Maserati in 1993. But a domestic slump in car-buying took its toll on the company, which tumbled into huge losses the same year. A massive restructuring led to 75,000 job losses. Agnelli stepped down as chairman in 1996, but the untimely death of his nephew and heir apparent in 1997, as well as corruption charges against the company's managing director Cesare Romiti and its finance director, led to a temporary power vacuum. This was later filled by former General Electric executive Paolo Fresco.

Early in 1999, Fiat opened talks with Volvo. The Swedish company was interested in selling off its passenger car division, but Fiat declined, saying it wanted to buy out the whole group. Instead Volvo's board sold the car business to Ford, and raised further funds by selling a minority shareholding in its remaining trucks business to Renault. Meanwhile Fiat's car division slipped into losses in 1999 and 2000 as a result of price competition in Europe. As the pace of consolidation increased in the auto industry, the spotlight finally fell on Fiat when rumours emerged that the group was in discussions with DaimlerChrysler. According to speculation, Fiat was considering the sale of its passenger car division in order to concentrate on trucks and agricultural machinery. However in 2000, it was General Motors not Daimler who won Fiat's hand. The two groups swapped shareholdings, with GM getting a 20% stake in Fiat in return for 5% of its own shares. (Fiat sold its GM shares for around $1bn in 2002). Significantly, Fiat Group also negotiated a "put" option allowing it to force GM to buy the rest of Fiat Auto after January 2004. Meanwhile the two companies also formed joint ventures to manufacture car and train engines and other components. A few weeks later Fiat Group consolidated its own position by buying back previously floated minority stakes in insurance business Toro Assicurazioni and its Magneti Marelli car components company. It then began breaking up the Marelli business, selling off its various divisions, as well as a controlling stake in its railway stock business Fiat Ferrovia.

The following year, Fiat consolidated its grip on Italy's commercial infrastructure with an audacious takeover of Montedison, an Italian group with substantial interests in energy and agribusiness. At the time Montedison was the key industrial interest of Italian investment bank Mediobanca, a long-time rival of Fiat Group. Electricite de France, the French state-owned utility, held a 20% stake in Montedison, but was effectively barred by the Italian government in 2000 from making a full bid. Instead it swapped its shares for the second largest stake in a newly formed consortium, Italenergia, controlled by Fiat. Italenergia bid around $5.5bn to acquire a 52% stake in the target group, taking management control, and renaming it Edison after its principal business.

In 2001 the group bought out the 50% share held by partner Renault in bus manufacturer Irisbus and also opened negotiations (ultimately unsuccessful) to buy DaimlerChrysler's aero-engine subsidiary MTU. However, Fiat Auto was hit by mounting losses as a result of poor performance in Latin America, and a disappointing launch of its new Stilo model. At the end of the year the group unveiled a restructuring involving 6,000 job losses and production cuts at 18 plants, as well as a change of management. Shortly afterwards Fiat reported a group loss, its first since 1993.;

In 2002 the group sold a sizeable stake in Ferrari to Italian bank Mediobanca in order to raise cash. However the deal came too late to save group CEO Paolo Cantarella, who was forced out the same month. As losses continued to deepen, the group began crisis talks with the Italian government to save jobs. Eventually it announced it would lay off 20% of its Italian carworkers in what was seen as a symbolic disaster for Italian industry. Protracted talks ensued with unions and the government in a bid to save these jobs. However Fiat's financial situation continued to worsen in the meantime. The deficit for 2002 was initially expected to exceed E1bn. In the end it quadrupled to more than E4bn as managers took the opportunity to cut back huge chunks of over-inflated value.

During 2002, entrepreneur Roberto Colaninno, best-known for his hostile takeover of Telecom Italia, announced plans to mount a similar assault on Fiat. The Agnelli family strongly opposed any such bid and used all their political influence to persuade the Italian government to prevent any takeover. However these wrangles were abruptly overshadowed by the death of Gianni Agnelli in January 2003 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was succeeded as group chairman by his younger brother Umberto. Forestalling any further takeover bids, Fiat's board announced plans to recapitalise Fiat Auto. The group pumped in E3bn of additional cash, much of it from other family resources, and called on 20% shareholder General Motors to supply the rest. The American company, already nervous at the prospect of being forced to buy out the rest of Fiat, declined and saw its shareholding reduced to 10%. As Fiat's sales continued to slide, GM began threatening a law suit to dispute the "put" option. To appease its American partner, Fiat agreed to postpone the start of the option period to 2005. Sadly, these talks were followed in June 2004 by the death (also from cancer) of executive chairman Umberto Agnelli, less than two years after his older brother.

In December 2004, with the put option deadline looming, the two sides went back to court. GM attempted to get off the hook, arguing that the original deal was invalidated by contract violations. Fiat was equally determined to keep the option open. Finally, the American company agreed to pay Fiat E1.56bn in 2005 to be released from its contractual obligations.


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