The Chrysler/Fiat deal represents a thread of hope for Michigan (maybe) and, at least on paper, promises to keep the pipeline of cars rolling.
The problem is that both brands need heavy-duty work in the US. We all know about Chrysler’s fall from grace and, more importantly, its fall from consumer relevance. (The only exception is Jeep, once the property of now defunct American Motors.) The question is, “What does the Fiat brand own in the US?”
It has been many years since Fiat sold cars directly into the US market and, by all reports, it makes a better car today then it did 20 years ago.
I certainly hope so.
When I think about the Fiat from the 70s, I remember very stylish designs like its Spyder (which looked suspiciously like the old MGB). However, for the most part, I am filled with memories of my own family’s dalliance into the Italian brand.
It was, how do I say? Not good.
Both my sister and my parents owned Fiats. The one my sister owned deteriorated into a ball of rust right before our eyes. She was famous in the family for saying, “Cheap cars need not seem luxurious.”
But the best memory was that of my parents’ Fiat.
The car developed a pin-sized leak in one of the rubber hoses that supplied gasoline to the carburetor. So, at various intervals, the engine would simply catch on fire and flames would pop out of the sides of the hood. We tried many times, unsuccessfully, to have it fixed but the fire would roar back time and again.
My father’s way of dealing this was simple. He told me to “give Mom lessons in putting out the fire.”
The cause of all this was because Fiat used inferior rubber products in those days and it was always causing problems. At seemingly random times, the car would simply stop dead in its tracks. My Mom and Dad could drive it for weeks with no problem then, without warning, it would stop dead. No one believed them at the dealership, but I myself was a witness. So was my sister. Sitting in the backseat, we saw it all.
It turned out that the same defective rubber used in the gasoline hoses was also used in the insulation on the wiring harness. After much analysis, we came up with the reason behind it all: The car would die when someone was sitting in the back seat. The seats were shorting out the wiring and cutting off all the electricity to the car. Nice.
So, as you can see, I feel very positive to this joining of forces. It reminds me of that powerful union between K-Mart and Sears, two other brands that had lost their way and became one brand that also has no idea which way to go.