Skip to main content

Fiat boss tries to transform auto industry

  • Story Highlights
  • Fiat hopes to purchase GM Europe
  • The move comes a week after Fiat agreed to buy a stake in Chrysler
  • Fiat plans would create one of the world's largest car companies
  • The new company, Fiat/Opel, would generate $100 billion a year
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- A former accountant from Toronto is looking to remake the auto car industry.

Fiat's update of the Cinquecento. The company says its small car expertise can help GM Europe get back on track.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat, has ambitious plans to combine with Chrysler and GM Europe.

When Sergio Marchionne took the helm of Fiat five years ago, the carmaker was driving toward insolvency and saddled with more than $12 billion in debt. Four years and 15 profitable business quarters later, Marchionne is attempting to position Fiat just behind pole sitter Toyota in the race to win global car customers.

"I've heard him speak many times and it's clear he's got a certain target in mind of what scale is necessary to succeed," said John Bonnell, an auto industry analyst with J.D. Power and Associates.

Although Fiat, like many automakers, lost money in the first quarter this year due to the credit crisis, Marchionne is making an impressive play to take advantage of the troubles at GM and Chrysler.

A combined company of GM Europe, Chrysler and Fiat would generate about $100 billion annually with sales of between 6 and 7 million cars a year, according to Fiat.

"Clearly they're trying to take advantage of the opportunity when a lot of stakeholders may be willing to accommodate them," said Bonnell, the auto analyst. "It may be their only opportunity to get to the kind of scale necessary to succeed in this market."

In an interview with the Financial Times, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat, detailed a plan to separate Fiat Auto core car divisions and join with Opel/Vauxhall, Saab and GM's other European operations.

Last week, Fiat agreed to take an initial 20 percent of Chrysler as the U.S. manufacturer filed for bankruptcy protection.

"It's an incredibly simple solution to a very thorny problem," Marchionne told the Financial Times.

Marchionne hopes to have the deal finished by the end of this month, and list shares for the new company -- which may be called Fiat/Opel -- by the end of August.

Don't Miss

Fiat has only recently gotten itself back on track. In his five years at the helm of Fiat, Marchionne has helped turn around the troubled Italian automaker.

Analysts say its small-car technology can help Chrysler, known for its minivans. In the past five years, Fiat has been able to regain market share in Europe with its economy fuel-saving cars as well as its luxury line, Alfa Romeo.


On Monday, Fiat met with German government officials to gauge the political mood for a takeover of Opel, GM Europe's German unit. Fiat is hoping to secure short-term loans of up to $7 billion from the German government, raising concerns in Germany about helping to fund the Chrysler deal.

The question of how to fuse - and how to reduce - Fiat and GM Europe's combined workforce of more than 100,000 employees also will carry political weight.

CNN's Jim Boulden, Monita Rajpal and Kevin Voigt contributed to this report.

All About Fiat SpAGeneral Motors CorporationChrysler LLC

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print