It is the end of an era for Fiat as after 115 years it will no longer be an Italian company.
The carmaker and its US unit Chrysler will become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, incorporated under Dutch law, with a financial base in the UK – to pay less tax – and shares to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, probably in October.
Shareholders voted for the official merger at the annual general meeting on Friday where Fiat President John Elkann told them: “We’re presenting to you a merger project that means a new headquarters and the changing of our name. The future of our company begins at this meeting today.”
Elkann, grandson of late Fiat patriarch Gianni Agnelli, also dismissed suggestions the Agnelli family wants to reduce its stake.
Bigger is better as far as the company is concerned – indeed the bosses believe it is essential for survival – with large sales volume and the ability to attract foreign investors to what is now the world’s seventh-largest carmaker.
Founded in 1899, Fiat became Italy’s largest carmaker within a decade.
One hundred and ten years later the Chrysler alliance saw it take a 20 percent stake in the US company, which had flirted with bankruptcy and been rescued by the US government. That stake was then built to full ownership early this year.
It now has an ambitious business plan. It is the dream of chief executive Sergio Marchionne, who at the annual general meeting stressed: “Fiat is not leaving Italy, only the holding company will be organised under Netherlands laws.”
So far the geographic spread from adding Chrysler to the mix has worked. The US firm’s resurgence in North America has been driving profits, even as European car sales flagged, making it more likely the company will survive.