Several days ago, news broke that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Groupe PSA had agreed to merge their businesses, thus creating the world's 4th largest automaker. This came along after FCA's years-long search for a new partner, which began during the tenure of its former, late Chief Executive, Sergio Marchionne.
It is worth noting, of course, that the merger had not been finalised as of yet. The terms are pending approval from their respective shareholders, with labour unions concerned, that the merger would not benefit its workers. Once approved, it will result in the creation of a new mega-corporation, and underneath it, will sit 15 different car brands, from Italy, France, and the United States.
Amongst the members of this new family, are - Citroën, Opel/Vauxhall, Peugeot, DS, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Mopar.
But as the corporate bureaucrats start shifting around paperwork, and consulting with their lawyers, there remains a question, as to what effect this merger would have on us, car enthusiasts.
The Purge has commenced.
As with every corporate merger or acquisition, there exists the need to synergise and harmonise the businesses of the respective entities that are being combined. This will no doubt, result in the closure of certain departments and divisions, or otherwise, its reorganisation to a shadow of its former self.
Unfortunately, for the sake of efficiency and cost-cutting to produce maximal profitability, this would have an effect on future models of a new FCA-PSA conglomerate.
As such, this mentality may have ultimately influenced FCA's decision to slim down Alfa Romeo's planned portfolio, with the culling of 2 future halo cars, the GTV and 8C. While Alfa's stable remains strong, with the Giulia and the Stelvio, I'm sure that the Alfisti, and many enthusiasts around the world were disappointed. It would've been great to see Alfa experimenting, and further developing a new halo car.
This left me wondering, as to how many other brands, whose line-ups are prime for gutting. There are currently many models in FCA and PSA's respective divisions that would overlap, and eventually compete against one another.
While their individual brands have character and distinction, most of them sell within the same market segment, which is manufacturing mass-produced, and accessibly priced cars. Wouldn't there be competition between FCA's Fiat Panda, and PSA's Citroën C3? Or perhaps between Fiat's Tipo, and Opel's Astra?
There's also the plethora of small crossovers and minivans that are shared between them. Would FCA-PSA allow this (step) sibling rivalry be allowed under one roof?
This purge would also cast an uncertain cloud over a once legendary brand that has recently fallen on hard times - Lancia. Lancia currently manufactures ONE car, befitting its current mandate of rebadging bland Fiats from their back catalogue. This is an affront, and a shame to Lancia's legacy of automotive and motorsports prowess.
It has been clear, that FCA's bigwigs aren't convinced, from a purely business perspective, to revive Lancia. In fact, browsing through Lancia's website has been a painful experience for me. So, for the sake of saving costs, would the merger possibly be the death knell for the once storied Lancia brand?
The Fountain of Youth.
Yet, behind all the facts and figures, there remains a glimmer of hope for the enthusiast. We in recent years, have been subjugated and starved, as corporations continue to prioritise profits over passion, we hoped that in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.
With a merger between FCA and PSA, there is a hope that the sharing of knowledge, resources, and traditions between the companies, would help to revitalise some of the vehicles that have long been in need of some chutzpah.
Imagine combining some of the legacy, passion, and zest from FCA, with PSA's renewed aura and technological tour de force. This could have the potential to recreate some of their cars, with a focus on fun and enjoyment, rather than whether it would be possible to shave off a few cents to cheapen build quality.
Take for example, the advanced electrified powertrain from Peugeot's new 208, technology which FCA does not yet have in production, then putting it into the peppy and fun, little Fiat 500, which many people adore, and is long overdue for a refresh.
Electrification, in my opinion, is the new way forward for mass development and deployment of automobiles, to help reduce global emissions, and allowing for the salvation of the internal combustion engines for enthusiasts, like us. Thus, it would be beneficial for FCA and PSA to share its platforms, and provide more choices for the consumer, in the way of electric vehicles.
Another example, would be helping to cope with some of Maserati's weaknesses. While the brand has its unique identity and driving pleasure, consumers remain unappeased by Maserati's offerings, especially when compared to other luxury brands, such as their German counterparts.
They have failed in 2 key aspects of modern luxury cars - quality and technology. Maserati's mechanical reliability has long been a concern, and its interiors are adorned with sumptuous leather, but then combined with cheap plastics. They're lacking in tech as well, with relatively outdated infotainment systems, and lacklustre driver aids.
While there is a large price gap between Maserati and PSA's cars, they can look for inspiration here considering the leaps and bounds made by PSA, evident in Peugeot's new 508, and the DS 7. This venture, could help to make the ownership experience of a Maserati, so much more special and enjoyable.
Moreover, the merger could also bring good news to our colleagues Stateside. As PSA cars are not sold in the US, one of the world's largest car markets, a combined entity could bring Peugeot, Citroën, DS, and maybe Vauxhall/Opel onto its streets.
Good times to come?
There are still many unknowns that could be a consequence of the merger between FCA and PSA. Is there a chance, that we could see the return of automotive past, with the revival of the glory days? Or would we be succumbed to seeing some of our beloved cars ceased from production, because they're no longer relevant?
Personally, I would like to see them focus on making cars more fun and enjoyable, with less corporate staleness. It doesn't have to be high-performance, or complicated in design to win people's hearts. I want to see a return of an era when cars were colourful, simple, and quirky. That's the future that I'm hoping for.
I will be posting another article soon on my wishlist for the cars that could result from a new FCA and PSA family. After gutting the GTV and 8C, surely we need to be recompensed, right?