Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne spoke a lot of sense in his entertaining and insightful press conference at the Geneva motor show. He outlined how European car production problems should be addressed and spoke of potential future tie-ups in a wide variety of areas with other brands.
But perhaps most interesting of all was his reasoning on just how much car could share with one another to save costs. He believes consumers and car makers need to lose their “not invented here” mindset when it developing cars, and therefore more alliances “are needed so there’s no corporate waste”.
Fiat’s Tychy factory in Poland is home to the Fiat 500, Lancia Ypsilon and Ford Ka, and formerly home to the last-generation Fiat Panda. Marchionne described the Ford tie-up as a fine example of how such a link can work.
Sharing development work on the basic architecture “had a huge impact on capital costs”, but each of the cars to come off the same platform was very different, and a consumer would be hard pressed to tell they were related.
Marchionne wants more partnerships like this in all areas – including platforms, powertrains, manufacturing and components – in the volume segments, but understands the needs for premium brands to retain differentiation. He used engines as an example on “capital waste” in the mass market.
“A four-cylinder diesel engine is a four-cylinder diesel engine to a consumer,” he said. “No-one cares. No-one buys a car based on powertrains. Simplification of powertrains across brands is viable. We’re all smart enough to know this, and to argue that you need to do your own is stupid.
“We need to make ourselves available to talk. There’s no pride. If it makes economical sense to me, then it makes economic sense for them. Let’s talk.”
While it’s hard to argue with his logic, it seems no-one in the industry is listening to Marchionne. “There are a variety of talks going on, the majority of which will never deliver results. We need to preserve capital.”