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Fiat changes name, loses its soul? Image by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Fiat changes name, loses its soul?
Recent purchase of Chrysler shows Fiat's global ambitions.
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Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's trenchant advance in building an automotive colossus reached a for-midable milestone this week. Fiat is to change its name to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It has also announced sweeping changes to the new company's internal business and legal structures. Fiat will now be registered in the Netherlands and set its tax domicile in the UK. The decision comes after Fiat took full control of Chrysler, creating the world's seventh-largest carmaker.

"In order to establish a true peer to the major global automotive groups, in both scale and capital market appeal, the Board has decided to establish Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., organized in the Netherlands, as the parent company of the Group," said a statement. Also, Fiat would now have primary stock market listing on the NYSE and Milan. Time will tell how this change will be received in a country as partisan as Italy.

Marchionne has argued long and hard that the centre of Fiat's power needs to be removed from Italy. This has been met with concern. Piero Fassino, Mayor of Turin said "To my mind, it's more important that we have production here - which we have - than a few legal functions." However locals are worried that Fiat, while still Italy's largest private company, only employs 18,000 directly in Turin with 215,000 employees based outside of Italy.

In the past, Marchionne has vented his frustration over Italy's labour laws and poor productivity. A mooted future move of its headquarters to Detroit will do little to allay their fears.

Anything else?

Better news though, is coming from the Fiat Group. The Maserati factory at Grugliasco in Northern Italy has been retooled as a site for building premium cars for export markets and is seen as a future base for the Group's high-end car production. Already 2,200 car workers are assembling the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli models for American and Chinese markets. It seems from this week's announcement that Sergio Marchionne will likely continue his demonstrable ability to surprise. His ability to delight may only be judged objectively, in years to come.

Mark Gallivan - 30 Jan 2014    - Fiat road tests
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