Missing the Point

Fiat’s geomorphic car crash hits another boulder with the axing of the Punto from UK shores.

Image credit: (c) allaguida

There is a certain grim irony in the fact that Sergio Marchionne’s death was so abrupt and shocking, yet for so many former Fiat Group model lines for which he was responsible, the reaper’s approach continues at a glacial creep. Amidst the halls of Melfi, Mirafiori and Cassino, unconsolidated glacial debris have been noted for some time, but with this week’s announcement of the Punto’s withdrawal from the UK market, the terminal moraine edges closer.

It comes as something of a surprise that Fiat UK saw fit to Continue reading “Missing the Point”

Eurochild

Vittorio Ghidella presided over one of Fiat Auto’s rare periods of growth and prosperity. The 1988 Tipo exemplified his pragmatic approach, but all gains would become subject to the Fiat Charter.

Don’t worry, it’s galvanised! 1988 Tipo perilously close to water. Image credit: stubs.centreblog

Boom and bust appears to have been as essential a part of the Fiat charter as ill-judged facelifts. Periods of prosperity punctuated by blind panic when the balance sheet nosedived. In 1979, Gianni Agnelli appointed former engineer, Vittorio Ghidella to head the Fiat Auto division. The Turin carmaker was in desperate straits, emerging from the 1970s battered from the legacies of the ’73 fuel crisis and from labour disputes which threatened the future of the business.

Within a decade, the picture would be vastly different. Continue reading “Eurochild”

L’Estrema Unzione

Amid reports suggesting Fiat will shortly abandon Italian car production, Driven to Write posits a requiem.

Fiat’s Mirafiori car plant. Image credit: kollectium

So it has come to this. After almost 120 years of car production, Fiat cars, for so long synonymous with the place of their birth will no longer be produced there. Yesterday, we examined Automotive News’ report outlining FCA’s plans to shift Fiat’s entire production output to low-cost outposts outside of Italy. Instead, Fiat’s domestic plants will be refitted to produce upmarket models as FCA transitions towards high-return product.

There is a certain inevitability to this of course, given both the pattern of FCA’s fortunes and the path the wider motor industry is taking, but regardless of Continue reading “L’Estrema Unzione”

Ritmo Della Strada

Fiat’s Seventies C-segment style statement is largely a neglected footnote today, but there’s more to the Ritmo than a bunch of robots and some confusion over its name.

Style statement. Image credit: cargurus

Was any decade as truly modern as the 1970s? One retrospectively characterised in a roseate glow of giddy colours and lurid sartorial fashions; of long hair, beards, beads and ABBA songs, what chroniclers choose to ignore was how genuinely, thrillingly new it all appeared at the time and after an interval of four decades, seems even more so now.

In terms of product design, little that occurred in the decade that followed came even close to Continue reading “Ritmo Della Strada”

The Circle Game

The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?

Tim Kuniskis. Image credit: thenewswheel

Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”

Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say

Fiat didn’t hold an official “Exhibitors Conference” on the first media day at this year’s Geneva Salon, but that didn’t prevent FCA’s CEO pronouncing on the future of Fiat’s European activities.

Source: R Parazitas

Sergio Marchionne declared that “for the 500, 500X and Panda it is worth pursuing, I am less in love with the Tipo, despite its sales success. We have to be careful how we distribute large amounts of capital. The Tipo is less encouraged, because that sector of the market is very crowded and not very profitable. It was a part of the market where Fiat traditionally was, but maybe we need to Continue reading “Geneva Fallout 2018 – The Things Bosses Say”

The Muse of Melpomene

Lancia’s 2004 B-sector monospace was that rare thing – a commercial success. But was it a better Idea than its Fiat sibling?

Image credit: car-info

It has been suggested that the Lancia Musa died prematurely, production ceasing when Fiat Auto’s Stabilimento Mirafiori car plant was idled in 2012; victim of the catastrophic fall in Italian new car sales in the wake of the financial crash, sovereign debt crisis, not to mention the legacy of Fiat Auto’s inability to Continue reading “The Muse of Melpomene”

Two Cities, One Car

A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.

Image credit: autokult

Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”

A Concept for Sunday – Boating for Beginners.

Fiat tested the waters for their subsequent two-seater offering in 1993 with the Maggiore Scia – a concept car which genuinely deserved the term, ‘little boat’.

Fiat-Maggiore Scia concept. Image: fiatbarchetta

With the 1989 demise of the long-running X1/9 model, Fiat, for the first time in decades, lacked a two-seater roadster in its lineup; a state of affairs which wouldn’t have elicited much concern apart from the fact that such vehicles were making something of a popular comeback by then.

This was largely a result of Continue reading “A Concept for Sunday – Boating for Beginners.”

Reverting to Type

A seemingly harmless trip to the shops leads to a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Tipo.

Tipo Berlina. Image: Car Suggest

A stroll around my local retail car park in suburban Cork is a dispiriting experience at any time, even when the rain isn’t horizontal. Filled with the usual drear parade of monochrome conveyances, there is little for the eye to linger upon, or indeed from which the uninfluential auto-blogger can spin an article. However, earlier in the week, I was stopped in my tracks by, of all things, a 2017-registered Fiat Tipo Sedan – the first I’ve witnessed in the wild. Continue reading “Reverting to Type”

Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped

The 1973 Beta Coupé was slightly underwhelming – and to be honest, its sales literature was as well.

All images: Driven to Write
Well proportioned, neatly styled yet somehow lacking. The Beta Coupe. All images: Driven to Write

A year after the berlina’s launch, Lancia announced the first of four sporting Beta derivations, the 2+2 Coupé. Designed in-house in conjunction with Pietro Castagnero, the man responsible for the much-loved Fulvia amongst other pre-Fiat Lancia designs. This is an early sales brochure and it is notable for a number of reasons – some of a pedantic nature, others of a more whimsical stripe.  Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Beta than expected but not as good as hoped”

Small Wonder : 2

Could we have imagined the 1985 launch of the Y10 would mark the beginning of Lancia’s final act.

Lancia Y10 Fire. Image: autowp-ru_
Autobianchi Y10 Fire. Image: autowp-ru_

History does make for strange bedfellows. In 1969 Fiat handed control of Autobianchi to Lancia’s beleaguered management, entwining both marques. More than a physical union, their relative destinies would also become one – or at the very least, follow eerily similar pathways. History, as I’m fond of pointing out, has a way of repeating. Continue reading “Small Wonder : 2”

Going to Extremes – 1986 Lancia Thema 8.32

Successful motor companies are consistent motor companies. Did Fiat miss a meeting?

Image: Aboutcars.bg
Image: Aboutcars.bg

Looking at those who’ve made a success of the motor business, they stand out for (amongst other things) an unswerving consistency. This isn’t however a trait one could ascribe to the mighty Fiat group over the past four decades, lurching as they have from crisis to recovery like a cadre of drunken sailors on shore leave. Continue reading “Going to Extremes – 1986 Lancia Thema 8.32”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Eight

The Gamma’s most formidable rival may surprise you, but should it really have surprised Lancia’s lords and masters?

Image: autorevue.cz
Image: autorevue.cz

When Lancia’s half dead remains turned up on Fiat’s doorstep in 1969, the product drawers may well have been empty, but there was a clear and logical model hierarchy in place. So it’s peculiar that Sergio Camuffo saw fit to disrupt this well defined model stratification with the first of his new-era Lancia’s – 1972’s Beta Berlina. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Eight”

Bereft in Deathly Bloom: Not Bloody Likely

As Lancia posts another respectable sales performance, where’s an automotive van Helsing when you need one?

 Image via southernwinesblog
Image via southernwinesblog

I don’t know about you people but I’ve had just about enough of Lancia. I’m worn out from the serial indignities foisted upon this proud marque, sick to the eyeteeth of Sergio Marchionne’s platitudes and inaction. I just want the pain to end. But for those of us who’d prefer to see Lancia’s drooling remains smothered with its own pillow, the past two years have offered little by way of consolation. Continue reading “Bereft in Deathly Bloom: Not Bloody Likely”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Six

The Gamma’s engine became its Achilles heel, but what choice did Lancia have? In this part we look at some of the options available to them.

Image via roadsmile
Image via roadsmile

The central pivot of the Gamma’s failure is encapsulated in one area of its specification that should have been inviolate. Because the Gamma’s engine was a pure-bred power unit based on a design produced under the stewardship of the late Dr. Antonio Fessia. But why this configuration at all? As we know, Sergio Camuffo originally schemed Tipo 830 to replace the mid-range Flavia, making this engine a logical choice, if not one entirely in keeping with Fiat’s rationalisation plans. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Six”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Three

If there was a single over-riding theme to the Gamma’s gestation, it can be summed up in one word. Politics.

An undisguised Gamma prototype. Image via lanciagamma.altervista1
A disguised Tipo 830 prototype. Image: lanciagamma.altervista1

As Fiat management began the process of ingesting their new acquisition, they found they were being thwarted by Lancia’s core of loyalist engineers. Like most grand marques, Lancia was engineering / manufacturing-led, so naturally all resistance to Fiat’s integration was centred here. Camuffo one imagines, must have been viewed with suspicion; seen as Agnelli’s man and schooled in what was probably viewed as an inferior tradition. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Three”

Ripping Yarns

How is FCA’s bejumpered boss managing?

sergio-marchionneI don’t think I’m necessarily alone in finding Sergio Marchionne’s penchant for jumpers a little unsettling. Yes I concede it is lazy of me to expect an Italian captain of industry to cleave to national sartorial stereotype; why shouldn’t he buck the norm, even if the result is somewhat unedifying.

Fine tailoring might be what we expect, but in Marchionne’s case the knitwear appears a little too studied, just a tiny bit artful. The cosy jumpers appear to Continue reading “Ripping Yarns”