Sergio Marchionne, Fiat-Chrysler’s chief executive officer, envisions the Turin area as its base for building premium cars for export. This is where Fiat’s Maserati plant is located.
Inside the newly retooled Grugliasco site outside the city, 2,200 car workers — many of whom have returned to full-time work after six years of layoffs — are assembling luxury Maserati Quattroporte saloons and Maserati Ghibli sports cars largely for the US and Chinese markets.
This vision will be under the spotlight on Wednesday when — following Fiat’s buyout of Chrysler through a special dividend paid by Chrysler itself — the newly merged board is expected to vote to shift its primary listing from Milan to New York, its legal status to the Netherlands and its tax residence to London. Its main headquarters is also expected to move to Detroit.
In Italy, the long feared move has been met by hysteria in the local media as Fiat remains the country’s largest private employer, even after a decade of downsizing.
But globalisation is necessary for Fiat’s survival as it fights its way back from near bankruptcy a decade ago, says Giuseppe Berta, a Fiat expert at Milan’s Bocconi University. US profits have buoyed a European business that lost $1 billion in 2012.
For Fiat-Chrysler employees inside the Maserati factory, the merger is already a success, because as a result of Marchionne’s plan to make Turin a hub for luxury cars, many of them are back working full time after earning as little as 850 euros a week while laid off.
The factory had nearly 30,000 orders for new vehicles in the first 10 months of last year, mostly from the US and China, up from 6,300 the year before. It plans to lift production to 40,000 this year, putting Marchionne’s target of shipping 50,000 Maserati cars in 2015 within reach, despite the initial skepticism of analysts.
In the 1960s, Fiat had around 100,000 employees, and cars were produced exclusively in northern Italy. Today, it remains Italy’s largest private company but only employs 18,000 people directly in the Turin area, of which around 5,000 are still laid off. Fiat-Chrysler now has 158 manufacturing plants worldwide, and 71 % of its 215,000 employees are based outside of Italy.
Via Financial Times