Fiat Deal With Bertone Could Benefit Chrysler

Posted by: David Kiley on August 7, 2009

tc.bmp

Fiat’s acquisition of historic car styling/coach-building Italian company Bertone this week fits in with an ongoing discussion at the automaker about whether to keep the Chrysler brand going.

Fiat is the controlling stake-holder in Chrysler following the automaker’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is also the CEO of Chrysler LLC.

During Fiat’s due-diligence in making the overture to takeover Chrysler, there was a definite bias on the part of the Italians, say sources familiar with the process, to phase out Chrysler and concentrate the U.S. operation on Dodge, Jeep and eventually Fiat. Now, say sources, the continuation of Chrysler as a brand is still an open question.

Bertone now is expected to take part in the development and styling of some of Chrysler’s models, including ideas about future Chrysler brand models.

Bertone is noted for production of models such as the Fiat’s X1/9, Alfa Romeo Giulietta and 850 Spider.

For some, the Bertone involvement with Chrysler design—indeed Fiat’s 20% ownership of Chrysler—conjures up a far less successful Chrysler partnership with the Italians. Back in 1984, Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca cut a deal with Maserati to build an Italianesque version of a Chrysler K-car, called Chrysler TC “By Maserati.”

Only 7,300 TCs had been made (by hand in Milan, Italy) when the program was cancelled in 1991.

The 1989 TC used, based on the Dodge Daytona, was powered by a turbocharged 2.2 litre inline four cylinder engine. It was later replaced by a Mitsubishi-sourced 3.0 L V6 engine for the 1990 and 1991 model years. The manual version came with a Getrag manual transmission and 16-valve Cosworth head version of the 2.2 liter. It was quite a global car for the times.

The TC featured a detachable hard top with opera windows and a manually operated cloth convertible top, which came in both tan and black.

Unfortunately, the car had so many delays and so many mechanical problems that it was, early on, deemed a bust. Chrysler was discounting prices nearly $15,000 toward the end to get rid of them.
Needless to say, there are much higher hopes for Fiat’s stewardship of Chrysler, as well as Bertone’s influence in future designs.

Reader Comments

Michael N. Marcus

August 8, 2009 12:07 AM

You have the name wrong. It was even more awkward than you stated. It was really "Chrysler's TC by Maserati."

While it may have shared some components with the Dodge Daytona, its "Coke bottle" body was very similar to the Chrysler LeBaron Coupe.

I had a LeBaron Coupe. It was a beautiful piece of crap -- much nicer looking, in fact, than the much more costly Maserati version.

I now have a Chrysler PT Cruiser, a Chrysler Town & Country, and a 1978 Fiat Spider. In my driveway, the companies merged years ago.

Snoz

August 9, 2009 2:48 AM

By focusing on sheet metal and ignoring the mechanical/electric reliability, Chrysler's TC is another conspicuous example of the stupid mentality of Detroit's Big3. Because of their limited intelligence, the bean counters of the Big3 have always found it easier to visualize the contours of sheet metal than to understand superior mechanical/electrical engineering. Robbing the present market with superficial sheet metal and fancy marketing, the bean counters destroyed future sales. Equally myopic in constructing brand strength and loyalty, the Big3 bean counters made a pile of cash by using cheap mechanical/electrical components at the expense of future sales. Eventually, in the mind of the American consumer the Big3 became synonymous with shoddy or even sleazy cars. As more American consumers express their contempt for lousy cars of the Big3, they abandoned domestic luxury brands: Chrysler's Imperial, GM's Cadillac, Ford's Lincoln. The failure of the Chrysler TC, marketed as a personal luxury-signature car, was an ominous sign of the imminent collapse of Chrysler. As for GM and Ford, the decline of Cadillac and Lincoln as the world standard of luxury car parallels the downward spiral of both companies. Fiat would never have bought insolvent and incompetent Chrysler but for US government's $10billion bribe known mistakenly as a bailout.

frankloweser

August 10, 2009 9:01 AM

I love seeing the picture of the old TC. I had a teacher who bought one. I do think that Fiat's involvement with Chrysler, though, will be much more fruitful.

Cars For Sale

August 11, 2009 2:30 AM

Equally myopic in constructing brand strength and loyalty, the Big3 bean counters made a pile of cash by using cheap mechanical/electrical components at the expense of future sales. Eventually, in the mind of the American consumer the Big3 became synonymous with shoddy or even sleazy cars.

http://www.topcarbuy.com

GILAUPROD

August 11, 2009 10:53 AM

NOW THAT FIAT HAS BERTONE AND PLANS TO BUILD ALL THE CHRYSLER CARS AT BERTONE.........WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DESIGN AND PRODUCTION TEAMS IN DETROIT????

IT SEEMS LAYOFFS AND PLANT CLOSINGS ARE THE NEXT THING ON THE AGENDA FOR FIAT IN MICHIGAN.....RIGHT?????

Arthur

August 11, 2009 9:31 PM

No, gilauprod, layoffs and plant closings aren't on the agenda at this time. Those issues were taken care of during the bankruptcy proceedings. All the current Chrysler cars -- except those slated to be canceled -- will be manufactured at the plants where they're being manufactured now.

Any current Chrysler cars to be manufactured at the Bertone plant will most likely be manufactured for European markets.

As for the production and design teams, they'll still be employed for now. If things change, I'm sure we'll hear about it soon.

GILAUPROD

August 12, 2009 9:23 AM

ARTHUR........ CAN CHRYSLER AFFORD TO PRODUCE CARS AT TWO FACTORIES?? ALSO CAN IT HAVE DESIGN CENTERS BOTH AT FIAT HEADQUARTERS IN ITALY AND AT AUBURN HILLS?????

GILAUPROD

ps

August 12, 2009 5:32 PM

If Chrysler designers get cut, Hyundai and Toyota are waiting to pick them up. It says something about American designers when a company like Hyundai sets up a design center in Michigan.

ps

August 12, 2009 5:32 PM

If Chrysler designers get cut, Hyundai and Toyota are waiting to pick them up. It says something about American designers when a company like Hyundai sets up a design center in Michigan.

Arthur

August 13, 2009 1:35 PM

In the case of the Dodge Ram pickup, gilauprod, Chrysler had to use 3 factories, one in Fenton, MO, a second in Warren, MI, and a third in Saltillo, Mexico. However, the Fenton plant will be shut down, leaving just the Warren and Saltillo facilities to make the Ram pickups. In any case, they left the unneeded factories with the old Chrysler during the bankruptcy proceedings, so that's not an issue right now.

As far as the design centers are concerned, the Auburn Hills center is part of the new Chrysler Group LLC, so they have no need to do business with the Fiat design center ... yet. This is not set in stone, however. While Chrysler's production and design teams will still be employed for now, Fiat and Chrysler may change their plans at some point.

Alessadra M

August 28, 2009 5:42 AM

I love seeing the picture of the old TC. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DESIGN AND PRODUCTION TEAMS IN DETROIT????


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Classic cars for sale

September 7, 2009 6:23 AM

Fiat's acquisition of historic car styling/coach-building Italian company Bertone this week fits in with an ongoing discussion at the automaker about whether to keep the Chrysler brand going.

http://www.motorclassic.net

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