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Auto blogThu, 02 Jan 2014 13:01:00 EST
Now that Fiat has finalized a deal to purchase the outstanding shares of Chrysler owned by the United Auto Workers' VEBA retiree heathcare fund without having to file for an IPO, you can count the Italian automaker's stockholders among the happy. The Detroit News reports that Fiat stock closed Thursday with a 12-percent gain for the day on the Borsa Italiana, having been up by as much as 15.8 percent during the day's trading, at prices not seen since mid-2011. One trader reasoned the run was because Fiat "paid less than the market had expected and there will be no capital increase to fund this."
But there are some who worry, including bank analysts and unions. The final price of the stake will be $4.35 billion - $1.9 billion in cash from Chrysler, $1.75 billion from Fiat and extraordinary dividends in the amount of $700 million paid over three years. Adding that sum to its ledger will raise Fiat's debt level to roughly 10 billion euros ($13.8 billion), which Citibank says will make it the most indebted OEM in Europe.
Italian unions are also concerned about what the deal means for the future. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has had an at-times contentious relationship with both unions and the Italian government over the future of Italian manufacturing, a fact that makes headlines because Fiat is Italy's largest private employer. At least two left-leaning unions have publicly called on Fiat to give guarantees and to explain what the deal means for its Italian operations, while a centrist union argues this is "good news for Fiat workers, for the auto industry and for our country."
Behind the vanguard of numerous Jeep models, two Chryslers, a smattering of Fiats and Alfa Romeos and local production through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automotive Group (GAG), Fiat Chrysler wants to increase sales in China more than six-fold by 2018. The group sold 130,000 cars in China in 2013, the aim for 2018 being 850,000 cars.
Ultimately it's expected that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Wrangler, Renegade, the coming Grand Wagoneer and a sub-Renegade-sized crossover will either be built in or exported to the People's Republic. The Chrysler Town & Country and 300 will join the export list in 2016 and 2018 respectively, according to a report in Automotive News.
With a number of those vehicles not in production or perhaps even envisaged yet, and others not due on the local market until 2018, it will be interesting to see how Fiat Chrysler plans to achieve the target in the specified timeframe. The joint venture with GAG builds two products now, the Dodge Dart-based Fiat Viaggio launched two years ago - supposedly designed just for China - and the just-launched Fiat Ottimo, a hatchback version of the Viaggio. Fiat projected 300,000 Viagio sales in its first two years, that number has been adjusted downward to 94,000 and there doesn't appear to be an analyst alive that sees a good future for Fiat in China's overrun mainstream market. Still, last year's 130,000 group sales in China is a huge jump from 2012 sales of 66,000 units, but less than half the 300,000 units it projected.
Billboard reports that Bob Dylan will be working with Chrysler again, this time starring in a Super Bowl ad expected to showcase the company's new 200 sedan. The rock icon first tied up with the Chrysler Group late last year when a commercial for the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee used Dylan's unreleased cover of Blind Willie Johnson's "Motherless Children" for its soundtrack.
The last big-game commercial for the 200 used Eminem in 2011 to introduce us to the outgoing 200 and the tagline-turned-mini-movement, "Imported from Detroit." Since then, Clint Eastwood, Berry Gordy, Jr., and America's farmers have taken turns impressing us with Chrysler Group's wares. It isn't yet known what song will be used for the spot. Speaking of the coming ad, company CEO Sergio Marchionne said, "Someone made the comment to me that I had the right commercial in 2011 and the wrong car. I think we now have hopefully the right commercial and the right car."
It's not Dylan's first outing with a carmaker, having starred in a spot to promote the Cadillac Escalade in 2007. Nor will it be the only Dylan music we get during the Super Bowl, the singer having licensed a track that's used in a one-minute commercial for Chobani Greek yogurt.