Jan 29 2014, 3:08pm CST | by Forbes
Chrysler can be forgiven if sometimes feels like a re-gifted car company. In the past two decades, it’s bounced from independence, to a “merger of equals” with German’s Daimler, to private ownership under Cerberus, to the oversight of Fiat.
Now, Chrysler has been packaged up once again, and its name is part of the new company. On Wednesday, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne announced the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA for short. The new company will be initially be based in London, not Milan, Italy, the long-time home of Fiat, or Auburn Hills, Mich., where Chrysler has been headquartered the past quarter century, although there have been some hints that FCA might end up in the United States.
Forbes Detroit Bureau Chief Joann Muller writes that the company has a new logo, which the company says represents “an organization that is much more than the sum of its two component parts, based on strong core values that represents a unique corporate culture, a common vision and a Group with an international reach.”
Instead of the 1930s looking streamlined Fiat lettering, or Chrysler’s traditional pentastar, the new company has chosen blue lettering, almost the color of President Obama’s tie at Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address. As with international architecture, which can’t be traced to any nationality but looks the same everywhere, the FCA logo is a fresh start for the Italian and American automakers.
“The three letters in the new logo, according to officials, are grouped in a geometric configuration inspired by the essential shapes used in automobile design: the F, derived from a square, symbolizes concreteness and solidity; the C, derived from a circle, representing wheels and movement, symbolizes harmony and continuity; and finally, the A, derived from a triangle, indicates energy and a perennial state of evolution,” wrote Mlive reporter Michael Wayland.
But look past the blue letters and there are some clues of what lies ahead for FCA.
Fiat Comes First. Fiat gained management control of Chrysler in 2009, when it took charge of the company after its U.S. government-sponsored bankruptcy. Since then, it has gradually be increasing its stake in Chrysler, as allowed by law. Now, Fiat unquestionably owns Chrysler, and that’s reflected in the pairing and the order of the company names. It’s no longer two companies, with one shepherding the other. It’s one big family, as Muller wrote in her story.
Of course, it’s a family with a very visible, and outspoken patriarch in Marchionne, who has committed to staying at FCA for at least three years, and a storied history through the involvement of the Agnellis, the Italian industrialists.
Chrysler Is On Display. When Daimler joined forces with Chrysler in 1998, there was a question about how to pronounce the name of the German-American company. “Daimler,” so the joke went. “The Chrysler is silent.” It doesn’t look like there’s going to be a silent Chrysler here. If Fiat wanted to overshadow Chrysler, it could have just folded it in under a Fiat company umbrella, or called it a subsidiary or a division. In this case, Fiat is breaking with its long tradition to link the Chrysler name with its own, much as Queen Elizabeth II hyphenated her children’s family name in 1960 to Mountbatten-Windsor as a nod to her husband, Prince Phillip.
It makes complete sense, given the success that Chrysler has enjoyed since it emerged from its quick-wash bankruptcy. And it ought to reassure the Americans who might wonder where they would rank with their Italian overseers. They get a seat at the table, and their own placecard.
Automobiles Are Our Game. Seasoned automobile industry watchers remember plenty of times when car companies pretended they did more than their primarily job. General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler all once had vast supply networks, making everything from steel and glass to plastics. They’ve owned companies making everything from buses and locomotives to refrigerators. And, in more recent times, they declared that they would be high tech companies, and of course they have had financial services networks.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is a declaration that the company is going to make vehicles. It’s bold, when you think about it, and it’s also clear. Of course, if FCA decides someday that it wants to shift away from cars and trucks, it will have to change its name. And that might keep the company on course, rather than wade into businesses that have nothing to do with its core mission.
Source: Forbes Auto
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