Rattle + Squeaks: musings, ramblings and rants from FeralCars founder Bob Merlis
Big news this week that there’s an agreement for FIAT to buy the remaining 41.5% of Chrysler from the UAW Trust for $4.35 billion. When Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler (billed as a “merger of equals” but, in reality, a Stuttgart-led putsch that went bad) in 1998, the price was $37 billion. Cerebrus Capital took that smoldering wreck off Daimler’s hands for $7.4 billion in 2007 and left it for dead. In 2009, the federal government interceded, as it had in 1979, this time putting FIAT into the picture.
We’ve heard all the Fix It Again Tony jokes for years but the fact is that FIAT’s infusion of technology and management expertise in the person of CEO Sergio Marchionne has made Chrysler profitable and competitive in recent years.
Chrysler, under Italian leadership, isn’t going away and that should be a source of comfort to MoPar loyalists and especially to thousands of its workers and dealers. Let’s hope it’s also a good deal per i nostri fratelli Italiani.
Which reminds us of Lee Iacocca’s quest for an Italian connection when he was Chrysler’s chairman. Lido’s parents had immigrated from San Marco dei Cavoti and he was so proud of his red, white and green roots that he joined forces with Frank Sinatra to offer a special Imperial model with The (other) Chairman’s initials on it. On his watch, Chrysler did a nutty co-venture with Alejandro de Tomaso that resulted in the awkwardly worded “Chrysler’s TC by Maserati TC.” Yes, that’s an apostrophe. He got thisclose to selling Alfa Romeos through Chrysler dealers in a deal with — get this — FIAT in 1988 and, oh yeah, he bought Lamborghini! Not a Lamborghini but the Lamborghini. In 1987 Chrysler Corporation, bought, outright, Nuova Automobili F. Lamborghini, straight outta Sant’Agata Bolognese.
Iacocca’s predecessor? A finance guy name John Riccardo whose parents had immigrated from (see above). The forthcoming FIAT+Chrysler unified entity may be be called Fiat S.p.A. but these two have been playing footsie with each other for eons. Anybody remember the Chrysler, Desoto, Dodge and Plymouth Ghia-built (in Turin) dream cars of the early 1950s?
And what about Italo-American Chrysler-powered Dual-Ghia? That same Sinatra guy had one as did Dean Martin and the other Rat Packers. Check out Dino’s ‘bella maccina,’ here, co-starring in Billy Wilder’s “Kiss Me Stupid”
If the past is any indication, Fiat and Chrysler’s ever evolving relationship is going to be interesting so we’re keeping an open mind and roof about the matter.
Bob Merlis / feralcars.com
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