When Daimler bought Chrysler, for the price of a name change, the joke instantly because “DaimlerChrysler is pronounced ‘Daimler’ — the ‘chrysler’ is silent.”
While there were engineers who respected their Chrysler counterparts, who often did more (or the same) with much less, leadership was quickly and clearly concentrated in Germany, and Americans were generally pushed underneath.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA, is another story entirely; the place may be run by a Canadian-Italian chief executive, and they may have gone to an allegedly inferior development system already used by Italy, but it’s been a joint effort, for the most part. Chrysler started development on new cars using Italian platforms, but they quickly made them their own — sometimes successfully (Cherokee, Pacifica, new Compass, Renegade) and sometimes not quite as well (Dart, 200).
Dodge is moving to the Alfa Romeo platform, dubbed “Giorgio” to make sure we all know it’s really Italian, soon — but that platform was jointly developed, and like all new projects at FCA, the core was done by engineers from various parts of FCA, while group-specific development is being done by people in that group. Thus, Alfa Romeo and Jeep have very different versions of the same engine family, GME, just as Maserati’s version of the Pentastar V6 is quite different from Chrysler’s.
One interesting illustration of that is shown in the promotion of Roberto Fedeli, who is moving from Alfa Romeo up to leading global innovation. His old job is being taken by Joe Grace — an American who rose from Chrysler Chassis Engineering and Vehicle Dynamics. Former-Chrysler’s Joe Grace, in short, will be leading the development of new Alfa Romeos and Maseratis.
So far, Fiat Chrysler has been quite cleverly handled, other than, perhaps, the naming of FCA US and FCA Italy. Morale has been managed on both sides, with both triumphs and let-downs. What remains to be seen is who will be named to follow Sergio Marchionne as chief executive — and how they will manage the integration vs regionalism of a company with two very different histories, groups of cars, and engineering traditions.
The author of Dodge Viper, Jeep’s Go-Anywhere Vehicles, and The Rise and Reinvention of Chrysler Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.info and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form (preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304.