The Italian salvation may not be all it's cracked up to beEnlarge Photo
Chrysler's vehicles, like all of America's cars, have improved greatly in recent years. But not-too-distant memory reminds us of the Le Baron and even of another ill-fated Italian tie-up and its Maserati-branded spawn. So Fiat's poor scores in the most recent JD Power survey in the United Kingdom gives cause to wonder if the Fiat-Chrysler union might ultimately be a tragic one.
Fiat's role in helping to save Chrysler post-bankruptcy was applauded by President Obama just days ago, but already the naysayers are building their case. And unfortunately, it's shaping up to be a decent one. The latest JD Power figures put Fiat at the bottom - 28th of 28 - in UK satisfaction rankings. Lexus, Skoda, Honda, Toyota and Jaguar filled out the top 5 spots, while Citroen, Kia, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi and Fiat rounded out the bottom five.
Which is a roundabout way of saying Fiat's car's aren't exactly renowned for their reliability in Europe, nor are those of sister brand Alfa Romeo though the brand wasn't separated in the results list. The last time either car was sold in the U.S. they had developed and suffered from a reputation for unreliability that ultimately contributed to their retreat from our shores.
Now the continued poor performance of Fiat in markets where it's already established calls into question whether the Italian company will be able to turn things around at Chrysler, or whether the partnership will just degenerate into a downward spiral of poor design feeding poor execution. On the other hand, Fiat also makes brilliant cars like the 500, which slots into a segment where Chrysler is completely absent.
Will the synergies make both companies better than they are on their own? Or will the Fiat-Chrysler partnership make the DaimlerChrysler era seem like a golden age?