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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Adbrands Daily Update 31st Oct 2019: Spurned earlier this year by Renault (or at least by Renault's French government shareholders), Fiat Chrysler has turned instead to Renault's arch-rival rival PSA. Just a day after news they were in talks first broke in the Wall Street Journal, terms for a full merger of equals were agreed by both companies' boards. PSA's Carlos Tavares will become CEO of the combined entity, with FCA's John Elkann as chairman. The all-share deal is being structured as a merger of equals, with each group's current shareholders ending up with 50% of the resulting business. Exor, the investment company for Fiat's Agnelli family, of which Elkann is chairman, will be the biggest shareholder in the group with 14.5%. The Peugeot family and its Chinese partners Dong Feng Motors will each have 6%. Assuming all goes according to plan, the merger would create a group with sales of around 8.7m vehicles annually, displacing General Motors as the global #4 manufacturer.
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Oct 2018: "Alive". Turn up the sound! This spectacular film for Maserati and Pennzoil automobile lubricants really deserves to be seen on a movie screen not your smartphone. PR agency Burson Cohn & Wolfe is behind the project, but the superb design and animation - the entire film was created in CG - is by creative team Shynola at Nexus Studios. They acknowledge the cinematic influence of Alien, Star Wars and Solaris; but you might also notice more than a few conceptual similarities to "Birth", an ad BBH did a few years ago for the Audi R8. Still, this is a stunning piece of work, thrilling in its power and intensity.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Jun 2019: That didn't take long: Fiat Chrysler's bold plan for a merger with Renault collapsed after only a few days, apparently as a result of interference by the French government, which is Renault's most influential shareholder, as well as resistance from the carmaker's Japanese partner Nissan. The state and Nissan each hold a 15% equity position in Renault. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire instructed Renault to slow negotiations with FCA in order to avoid disrupting the existing alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi, which is deemed the greater priority, despite evidence of continuing tensions. With Renault's hands apparently tied, Fiat Chrysler's chairman John Elkann abruptly withdrew his merger offer. A person close to Fiat Chrysler told the Wall Street Journal, "The French state has been intrusive in the extreme. They have sought the final word on every issue and this has created a situation of uncertainty that finally became intolerable."
Adbrands Daily Update 27th May 2019: Negotiations between Fiat Chrysler and Renault over some form of strategic alliance escalated quickly over the weekend. Fiat Chrysler has now proposed a full merger of the two businesses as equal partners in what would become the world's third largest car producer behind Volkswagen and Toyota. FCA proposes that Renault's Jean-Dominique Senard would be CEO of the combined entity with its own controlling shareholder John Elkann as chairman, and ownership of the business would be split 50/50 between the two group's existing shareholders. FCA is also offering to pay a special dividend to its own existing shareholders to offset the disparity between the two companies' respective valuations: FCA is significantly more valuable at present because of its US operations. Renault's board has agreed to study the proposal and come back with an answer in due course. The main complication is what to do about Nissan, in which the French company currently holds a large stake. However that relationship is under considerable strain as a result of the arrest by Japanese authorities of Carlos Ghosn, the architect of their alliance, as well as by the sharp downturn in the Japanese group's performance. Could Renault decide to pull the plug on its Nissan alliance in favour of Fiat Chrysler? Or will a deal be struck to accommodate all three?
Adbrands Social Media 13th May 2019: "Paint It Black". The Lancia brand, once a significant force across Europe, has suffered a serious decline over the past three decades with sales falling from 300,000 cars in 1990 to fewer than 50,000 last year. Long-time owner Fiat has steadily sidelined the brand in favour of other products, most notably in recent years Jeep and other Chrysler brands. Now sold almost exclusively in Italy, Lancia's sole remaining model, the Ypsilon small car, is being repositioned as a luxury item to rival the reinvention a few years ago of the Fiat 500. Here's the latest campaign from Armando Testa, a gorgeous piece of work that is more fashion film than car ad.
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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 €1bn. In the end it quadrupled to more than €4bn 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 €3bn 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 €1.56bn in 2005 to be released from its contractual obligations.
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