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A marriage between cultures, technologies and skills

On the four-year anniversary of FCA, professionals who participated in the transition recall the fruits of the union between Fiat and Chrysler

October 16, 2018 - Four years ago, under the flags of Italy, the United States and Brazil – and much anticipation – the shares of the newly formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles debuted on the New York Stock Exchange. The new automotive industry holding was not only multinational, but multicultural. It was the perfect marriage between the Italian and American automobile traditions with such different cultures that, four years later, they seemed to have always been one, as a seamless union. That's how strong the synergy is working within the groups all over the world.

Let's go back to the beginning of the "courtship". It was in 2009 when Chrysler and Fiat announced the strategic partnership. The two companies needed to join forces to remain competitive. The Chairman John Elkann stated at the time that both Italians and Americans had a great history in the automotive industry and "different but complementary geographic forces". In fact, Fiat could benefit from Chrysler's technologies, parts and market experiences, while providing America with its own strengths: design, technologies and experiences with more compact vehicles. "We are ready to take on this ambitious challenge with determination", Elkann said.

The merger began then, led by Italian-Canadian Sergio Marchionne, considered a management genius by how he succeeded in the challenge. "FCA has set an aggressive timeline", said Marchionne, also at the time. "The path we have chosen is not one with the least resistance. We embrace the exploratory spirit, strengthened by the pursuit of challenge and appreciation for diversity. Today [October 13, 2014, FCA's debut on the stock market] marks the beginning of our journey as a global automaker, FCA!". Today perfectly integrated, FCA operates across the globe, with 159 factories divided into four regions.

FCA turns four, but the history of its brands is much older, of course. Chrysler is 93 and Fiat is already a 119-year-old lady, the oldest of the group, which also includes four other centenarians: Dodge (118 years), Lancia (112), Alfa Romeo (108) and Maserati (104) . Ram first appeared as a Dodge brand in 1981, but since 1932 the symbol of the ram has adorned the brand's pickup trucks, which have been around for 86 years. Among the youngest are Jeep (77) and Abarth (69). Each of these brands has a beautiful history that has already won many hearts around the world. Today they run together, sharing what each one does best.

The FCA tradition is, therefore, marked by more than a century of innovation. As you read this text, FCA's Research and Development Centers work to honor the group's four pillars of innovation: mobility of the future, connectivity, advanced propulsion, and strengths of each product. Advanced technologies for vehicular safety, energy efficiency, emission reduction, electrification and autonomous steering are also in continuous development, always through the appreciation of its professionals and the quality control processes, with emphasis in our World Class Manufacturing, WCM's manufacturing process improvement and professional development integrated system, in other words the foundation of FCA's industrial culture.

For FCA's Institutional Relations director for Latin America, Antonio Sergio Mello, the union between Fiat and Chrysler was harmonious. "Our perception is that there was an effectively complementarity relationship between the two companies. FCA is innovative in bringing with it the charm of Italian design and the technology from the United States. They are not two separate companies. We are one FCA, a consolidated company that has taken on the leading role in the industry", he analyzes. In addition, Mello notes that "Fiat is undoubtedly seen as the most Brazilian automaker of all". It is in Brazil where the largest FCA factory in the world (Fiat Automotive Plant , in Betim, MG) and the most modern one (Jeep Automotive Polo in Goiana, PE) are located, the latter built after the merger, which explains the Brazilian flag present on the day of FCA's debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

"A factor that characterizes FCA, and always stood out in Fiat, is the boldness in its investments", says Mello. "In times of crisis in Brazil, we made the decision to invest in the construction of factories outside the consolidated industrial centers. In 1976, we inaugurated the Fiat factory in Minas Gerais and there we erected the second largest automotive plant in Latin America. In 2015, we transformed a sugar cane field into the Jeep plant in Pernambuco, incorporating what's most modern in the industry around the world, bringing state-of-the-art equipment and the technology and the training of new employees. An Industry 4.0".

Mello is keen to credit the success to the leadership of Sergio Marchionne, who died last July, at age 66. "He was the great mentor. A merger of this magnitude needed a leader with Marchionne's dimension to succeed. He realized the moment and had the courage and dared to build the necessary bridges during a difficult time of crisis in the USA. He really broke paradigms", he acknowledges.

Peter Fassbender director of Design Center LATAM

Born in Germany, with a career in Italy, Peter Fassbender, director of Design Center Latam, symbolizes this multicultural FCA. "Before, we worked in Betim only with the Fiat brand and now have other brands, such as Jeep and RAM. We work together with EMEA, NAFTA and APAC for creations and developments in Latin America", he says. "It was more than a positive change, it was fantastic and fundamental for the new products for our market. We have here in Latin America the same weight and importance as the other regions".

Like Mello, Fassbender sees the merger of the companies as the complement of all the competencies. One example of this is the creation of the Fiat Toro, which inaugurated the segment of medium-size pickups in Brazil and the concept of SUP (Sport Utility Pickup). Fully created in the country, Toro is Fiat, but produced at the Jeep factory in Goiana (PE), using various components of the Compass platform. It is a car that represents FCA and had immediate public and critical success and won several important international design awards. "Toro was a great opportunity to develop a Fiat product for our market. It’s larger, closer to the size of an American car, but with Italian lines and a new interpretation. It was an opportunity to reinterpret emotional design lines, which also influenced the Argo and Cronos. Today, we have a very different lineup than what we had in the past. They are modern, bold and with a very distinct identity", he says.

Fiat Toro

 Marcio Tonani FCA's Product Development director for Latin America

FCA's Product Development director for Latin America, Marcio Tonani, says his team is very proud to be part of FCA. "It's a multinational company that makes dreams come true", he says. "It is a unique opportunity to share all the knowledge of the various FCA research and development centers around the world. This exchange of experiences allows us to have professionals aligned with the most modern automotive technologies to design and develop cars for the whole world", he explains. "In these past years, working in partnership, we can see a constant exchange of experiences and a great desire of all the regions to turn FCA into a real global company, above any cultural difference, so that all the differences are treated naturally and with understanding, which is a key factor in our success", Tonani points out. "Latin America has been consolidating year after year as an increasingly competitive and promising market and Brazil is a key player in reaching our current and future plans. We are going to further increase the integration that we have managed by providing our customers with the best in the world of the automobile".

"The weight of Brazil is significant and the potential for growth is relevant in the next five years, with investments in the multi-year plan that are already being applied", he says. This month, Richard Schwarzwald, the Brazilian who led FCA's Quality Directorate for Latin America, took over the Group's global Quality Board and joined the Executive Council Group(GEC), the highest executive body in the world. "The fact that he was chosen to preside over this area in the world is a source of great satisfaction for us", says Mello.

Checkout the infograph below for a little more of this story.

infographic about FCA Group

Words: Daniel Schneider

Pictures: Marketing

Art: Fabricio Moura

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