Migratory Bird

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…

Lancia

Here at the gateway to the wilds of West Cork, we welcome more than our share of visitors from foreign lands. This mostly pleasant state of affairs affords us a degree of human variety which would be otherwise denied our pale, light averse, predominantly sandblasted natives. It also lends itself to a degree of automotive variety which to a dedicated driven to writer can prove something of a godsend.

However, not all such encounters are as timely or fortuitous as today’s. Having touched at some length earlier this week upon the lore of the Tychy White Hen, to encounter one in three dimensions proved something of a novelty. Although to be strictly accurate, what we’re looking at here is, if anything a grey hen – or in Lancia parlance, Elefantino Blu – a shade particularly redolent of the Shield and Flag’s Sixties heyday.

It would be foolish indeed to Continue reading “Migratory Bird”

How I would fix FCA

As an Alfista, the recent news about my beloved brand’s sales performances struck me hard, prompting some reflections about how FCA’s European arm could be ‘fixed‘. 

Junked 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 – Picture by Murilee Martin (c. AutoWeek)

The genuinely awful sales numbers posted by Alfa Romeo lately have once again placed the European side of FCA, best known as the one that burns the revenue generated in North America by Jeeps and trucks, under the spotlight. FCA’s current management seem somewhat unwilling to manage the clay-footed automotive giant created a decade ago, thanks to Sergio Marchionne’s opportunism and dealmaking ability.

The focus now seems to be mostly about maintaining the status quo until the sale of the whole shebang: Needless to say, such a non-strategy can last only so long, and mainly hangs upon Jeep and RAM sales in the USA: turmoil there would send the whole construction crashing down in no time.

The heart of the matter lies with the fact that FCA doesn’t generate nearly enough cash to Continue reading “How I would fix FCA”

Intimations of Mortality

Fowl play at FCA.

Behold the black hen.  (c) gruppo bossoni

Throughout our culture, the colour black has long been synonymous with death. In popular culture too – take for instance William S. Burroughs’ Black Rider or indeed the black swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. In keeping with the theme of fowl therefore, it may not be a coincidence that with the advent of the black hen, FCA are quietly softening us up for an impending demise.

Because the problem here appears to lie with the serial refusal of FCA’s Lancia-badged Ypsilon to do the decorous thing and shuffle off this mortal coil. Indeed, not being content to swerve death’s clammy embrace, the Tychy White Hen is still doing a decent number humiliating far more recent domestic contenders – most recently the troubled Biscione of Milan.

Given this somewhat paradoxical state of affairs, it seemed as good a time as any to at least attempt to Continue reading “Intimations of Mortality”

Betting The Empire

Can Fiat-Chrysler’s new CEO deal with FCA’s lopsided business or is it time to bring out the bonesaw?

FCA’s new CEO, Mike Manley. (c) Forbes

FCA’s late CEO, Sergio Marchionne was at various times hailed as something of a visionary, and without doubt, he achieved the seemingly impossible once he orchestrated Fiat Auto’s audacious takeover of the embattled Chrysler business in 2009. Nevertheless, an equally cogent argument could be posited that should Marchionne’s legacy simply be that of FCA’s continued existence, then it is built largely upon failure.

Why? Because despite his efforts, he was unable to Continue reading “Betting The Empire”

Fontana di Nettuno

Is FCA’s Poseidon Adventure approaching its climax?

Three Tridents. (c) Maserati.ae

Last week, we examined FCA’s stewardship of Maserati and concluded that under the leadership of former CEO, Sergio Marchionne, several significant mistakes were made. Now that the carmaker is being lead by a newly constituted management team, what fate lies in store for the Trident of Bologna?

As has been reported, Maserati has seen a torrid 2018, shedding volume, margins and becoming an increasingly onerous drain upon the FCA business. At the end of October, as part of their responsibility to Continue reading “Fontana di Nettuno”

L’anima di Tridente

Maserati’s cornerstone product also happens to be its oldest, and by some margin. Where now for the GranTurismo?

(c) car and driver

Prior to his untimely demise, former FCA helmsman, Sergio Marchionne was frequently characterised as a heartless technocrat entirely lacking in marque fealty. It was a narrative he did little to disavow and while the truth may not have been quite as cut and dried as his many detractors alleged, there can be little doubt that he was a gimlet-sharp pragmatist who would employ all tools at his disposal to Continue reading “L’anima di Tridente”

Blunting the Trident

Earlier this week, we reported on Maserati’s current woes. Today, we continue our analysis and pose a few uncomfortable questions.

(c)  Maserati

In the aftermath of Sergio Marchionne’s untimely death earlier this year, many observers offered a range of views as to the former FCA Chief Executive’s legacy. As is customary in times of personal tragedy, criticisms were muted and delicacies were observed. In his stead has stepped new CEO, Mike Manley, tasked with steering the still-listing FCA vessel through another four-year plan unlikely to be worth the powerpoint programme upon which it was scribed – both then and given the subsequent turn of events, now.

Armed with a hefty fire extinguisher, a hastily re-scribbled plan (subject to further change, no doubt), and a reshuffled team, his task, even for the more successful of FCA’s brand portfolio looks onerous. But for the ill-performing upmarket end of the spectrum, and especially its embattled Maserati business, it’s impossible to Continue reading “Blunting the Trident”

This Night Has Opened My Eyes

The Alfa Romeo MiTo dies next year and to be frank, Driven to Write is neither happy nor sad.

Image credit: (c) uscarsnews

So the dominoes continue to fall. A little over a week since FCA announced the UK withdrawal of the Grande Punto (as a prelude to its ultimate demise), there comes the latest slaughter of the innocents.

Speaking to Autocar earlier this week, Alfa Romeo Head of Brand (EMEA), Roberta Zerbi confirmed the MiTo’s imminent appointment with the eternal, telling the Haymarket weekly’s Rachel Burgess; “Mito is a three-door and people are choosing more and more five-door cars,” which is a nice line in marketing spin, albeit one which Continue reading “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”

End Too Soon

The automotive universe reels as a giant leaves the stage.

Image credit: (c) toledoblade

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The plan had been to anoint a successor in 2019, perhaps even bow out having secured the deal to end all deals. For almost a decade and a half, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne has been the master of the unexpected, but the sudden news regarding his deteriorating medical condition has brought a controversial reign to a premature, troubling and somewhat ambivalent end.

From his appointment as Fiat CEO in 2004, Marchionne appeared not to have bothered to read, never mind adopt the auto-business-CEO handbook. Arguably the first post-factual auto boss, Marchionne’s stock in trade has been to Continue reading “End Too Soon”

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”