Huge controversy rules in Detroit about the health and prospects of the Chrysler-Fiat merger. They're based largely on reporters' arying attitude to the facts that a) Chrysler failed to have a traditional conference, b) that it took the jaw-dropping step of associating Ferraris, Maseratis and Fiats with Jeep 4x4s and Ram pick-ups on the Chrysler stand, and c) most controversially of all, displayed a Lancia Delta with Chrysler badges and a new grille. I'm realise I'm in the distinct minority by thinking, on balance, that it'll all work out - mostly on the strength of the half hour I spent with Sergio Marchionne this morning, putting the most awkward questions I could think of, then listening to the casual eloquence, plausible optimism and winning logic of his replies.
Why no press conference? We had nothing to boast about. Why use Ferrari and Maserati as props? Because they attract attention, it'll do them no harm, and US sales are super-strong. Why the 'Chryslertisation' of Delta? Because if you're logical about it, the two marques can be made to fit ideally together. Even before talking to Marchionne I felt (after initial misgivings) that the Chrysler Delta looked okay. If you stood back 10 yards and thought about it, this was a better-looking C-class car for America than successive generations of Chrysler designers were likely to have produced on their own. And if the Ford Focus C-car can work in the US, why not the Fiat Bravo-based Lancia Delta, albeit more modestly?