Fiat company investment

Abstract: The propose of this investigation is to measure and examine the condition of Fiat company investment into American automotive market. There are a few core issues which have been concerned and divided in three components. The first part uses assessment tools Including SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to estimate Fiat company and PEST (Political, Economic, Social, Technological) model to appraise opportunities and risks to the American market. The second part provides some strategies can be used for the company to cope with potential threats such as positioning in the market segment, timing of entrance and Fiat-Chrysler entry mode. In the end, based on the foregoing several conditions, it comes up a few recommendations with a justification to the company.

Introduction

In this essay will be reported the findings related to internalization operation of FIAT group in the U.S. car sector. The essay will be structured starting from the SWOT analysis of the company, then the PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) analysis of the automotive U.S. Sector, then the Internationalization strategy analyzing the positioning and the timing of the entrance in the new market and concluding with the risk analysis related to the mode of entry. The recommendations related to the internationalization strategy and the mode of entry will be presented in the recommendations sections.

Fiat, otherwise known as Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, was founded in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli, great-grandfather of the current president John Elkann, and grew from a capacity of just 38 vehicles in the first year to become the famous global enterprise.

Fiat's international call started ever since the beginning with some exportations and work relationship with a New York producer in the beginning of the 20's. After WWII, the Italian industry made relevant investments in South America, in the USSR and entertained relationships with the communist influenced world, such as supporting the creation of AvtoVAZ in 1967. In 1969 FIAT acquired participations on Lancia and Ferrari; in 1985 it bought Alfa Romeo from the Italian government and the year later did the same with Maserati, becoming the biggest Italian company. After the 1981 petrol crisis American people started buying utility cars however FIAT faced the competition of the Japanese Toyota and for this reason, between 1989 and 1995, it left entirely the US market. ( FIATGroup, 2009)

During the decade '95-'05 FIAT faced the worst period with falls on market share but consequently Sergio Marchionne become the CEO of FIAT Group, in 2004, and led to a company rebirth with positive incomes from 2006. Thanks to Marchionne's management team in 2009 FIAT become the 6th biggest car producer after the alliance with Chrysler.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a tool to highlight Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business idea. It underlines the aim of the business venture and identifies the internal and external factors which favourably or unfavourably affect the achievement of that objective. (Collins, pp74-75)

As regards the strengths, firstly there is Multinational Experience: the Group has a good performance in industries and financial services in more than 50 countries and customers over 190 countries. In addition, almost two thirds of manufacturing sites are located outside Italy. Another strength is the Strong Management Commitment: thanks to Marchionne's management style, the Group has been renewed and has refocused on sells and performances, achieving all the short term goals forecasted. The last strength is Diversification of Operation; the Group owns 5 of the biggest Italian car brands (Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati and Ferrari), utility vehicles (IVECO), agricultural machines (New Holland), engine and transmission components (Magneti Marelli and FTP) and Research and Development centre (Teksid and Comau), which contribute to form its heterogeneous profit.

Regarding the weaknesses the first one is related to the brand-perception as low quality, which led to the definition of Italian car company as "unreliable and unsatisfying"[1]. Another weakness is the absence in the big car segment without any SUV model, which became quite popular before the crisis. The last relevant weaknesses are the inefficient usage of resources and the overcapacity in all the plants of the group.

The opportunities side involves the relevant number of alliances and partnerships like Ford, TATA (the biggest car producer of a developing country with strong market spread strategy) and Suzuki (sharing platform for its SX4 and Fiat 16). The other opportunity of the group is the absence from the North American Market which seems to have favourable conditions for an expansion.

The last part of the SWAT analysis concerns Threats. The economic stagnation and recession will affect the whole market in the short future: competition is getting harder especially against Japanese and Korean Companies which are more efficient and relatively cheap within the small and utility segment. Pessimistic forecasts state that "Fiat Group appears not to have enough money to pay debt that matures in the next 12 months"[2]. Another threat is related to the unpredictable movements of raw material prices. The last threat is the strong dependence on subsidies; until 2008 the Italian government has given subsidies to buy eco-friendly and less petrol consuming Italian cars; especially within the crisis period, this support has sustained the selling gaining the profitability of the company.

US market PEST Analysis

Methodology

In this part, it is discussed US market using PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) analysis. The PEST is an implement for better understanding market situation such as market growth and the business' potential, position and as a guide line for an enterprise (Gerry Johnson at el, pp99-103).

Political Sector

From perspective of political context, there are great opportunities and advantages to invest for multi-national companies. First of all, US has few regulation and low tariff. For both of domestic and foreign firms in US at the state level in order to enhance US market (The PRS Group, 2009). Furthermore, according to Office of the United States Trade Representative (2009), US has free trade agreements among 17 countries while US has been involved in WTO (see Table 1). These agreement ensure that free trade such as no-tariff among US with these countries, thus, many large companies which are investing US market have their factories in these free trade agreed nations, particularly Mexico and Canada so as to minimize the cost of transporting , product, and labour. However, while US has been introducing free trade policies, US government is more likely to change their policies to protect their domestic firms.

US has started to take some approach so as to protect domestic firms as a result of current global recession. For example, US has withdrawn the programs that Mexico truckers enable to use US highway for transporting goods, but this agreement was just launched in 2008, and in response to this, Mexico has imposed higher tariff on certain US goods(The Economic Intelligence Unit, April 2009). Here is another example of trade conflict is that US announced that they impose higher tariff on the automotive and light-truck tires of China by up to 30 percent for 3 years on September(The New York Times, 2009). This is because several domestic tyre makers have closed over the past 3 years because of Chinese cheaper products. In retribution, China has sought to impose higher tariff on US exports automotive products (The New York Times, 2009).

The other concern of investing US in terms of political context is that labour unions still have strong power at the stage of bargaining agreement particularly.

In fact, in automotive industry, the activities such as strike in order to receive better wages, health care, job security of the largest automotive labour union, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has significant affected their employer's corporate finance historically especially for Detroit three, even though the number of members has decreased from 1,500,000 in 1979 to 538,000 in 2007 (Financial Times, 2008). For example, on May 2008, GM announced the reduction of liquidity $2.2bn because of their key suppliers, American Alex's disruption for 11 weeks cost $1.8bn and own factories strike, $800m (Financial Times, 2008).Yet, because of the bankrupt of GM and Chrysler, UAW seems to be ready to compromise their benefit. In recent contacts with Chrysler, the union signed agreement no-strike with Chrysler by 2015 as well as GM this year (The New York Times, 2009). Thus, among carmakers in US, threat of the authority of UAW would be a less concern in next few years.

Economic Sector

America has encountered the recession since September of the last year by the bankrupt of Lehman Brothers. However, credit markets and the biggest US banks have generally regained their footing since the turmoil of the second half of 2008, but pockets of significant instability remain. An important concerning is the US's vast network of regional banks, many of which have been hit by their heavy exposure to commercial real estate (EIU, United States of America: Country Outlook).

Based on the recent data by the country report of United States of America from The Economist, it showed there was a slow and slight recovery of America economy. The employment rate was down from 9.5% in June to 9.4% in July (see Table 2). In addition, it was the first time that the working week was the longest in the year. New and existing home sales have risen for several months (see Table 3). This made a declining of inventory. This means the stockholding is likely to become a driver of GDP growth in next few quarters. However, the consumer confidence is a big question with their willing to increase the expenditure. Even better consumers are starting to expense again. Household's financial condition remains delicate. In the meantime, wages and salaries remain torpid and credit is still hard to get hold of.

The prices of products started to fall in early 2009 because of the recovery and the decline of the oil price. It expects that the consumer prices will decline to an average by 0.8 % in 2009 (The Economist). Due to the Downturn, the large demand shortage will make huge descending pressure on US prices more and more in 2009 and 2010.

Social Sector

First, the changing trend is consumer behaviour. Consumers start to attach importance to green regulation issue. While the growing rate caused by the importance of environmental issues can be an opportunity if Fiat launched hybrid cars. Consumers would consider not only the price of their transportation also measure the values of their automobiles. Moreover, laws affect consumers' behaviour. One of Obama's green policies is to have one million American-built hybrid cars which can run 150 miles per gallon on road by 2015. It could bring consumers to a new stage. Once the government launches supportive policies for these green issues, such as a short-term subsidization to hybrid cars purchasers, it can high encourage American people to buy hybrid cars when they are considering purchasing automobile tools. One of the opportunities is the demand in American car market. Although the world is suffering from the global recession, the United States has a vast land so that the State is still standing the highest demand. However, consumer attitudes of the stereotype for European companies can be a risk for a European enterprise.

Technological Sector

There are two general conditions which impact the new product to the market. Firstly, the technology develops steadily in small reforms, rather than radical improvements only once in a while. Secondly, except multiple functions, new innovations also predicted the trend and social value. A fresh impression also has a significant influence on sales. The automotive industry probably meets both conditions.

The American vehicle is not fuel-efficient; this kind of performance is not only for a short period. Otherwise, there would not have a space for OHV[3] engine to survive. Based on the U.S. Light Vehicle Retail Sales in October 2009 (see Table 4), Japanese car companies, such as Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, occupied a big percentage in the sales volume because of producing hybrid cars. Hence, Fiat could develop the fuel-efficient automobiles.

FIAT strategy and Investment Recommendation

Fiat during his history tried to expand itself into foreign market, growing in dimension, power and knowledge with positive but also negative results. Since Marchionne's arrival, as CEO of the company, the situation changed a lot. Finally the words of Gianni Agnelli, pronounced during the official celebration of Fiat's 100th birthday in 1999 seem to come true: "Fiat is too big just for the people who believe that the market is no global".

Nowadays Fiat is back again on the international stage with operation and expansion plan in Eastern Europe, South America, India and United States which will transform Fiat into the 6th larger car-producer group. (Ramsey and Forden, 10 June 2009)

Positioning

Across the European car market Fiat Group positioned its 3 brands Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia as quite high quality product with an affordable price, focusing target customer as the middle class who wants a well designed, reliable and fancy product. In the European market the main competitors are the French group Peugeot, PSA, the Japanese Toyota and the German Volkswagen. Especially in the last two years Alfa Romeo started to take off market share to Germans' expensive and luxurious brands such as BMW and Audi with good success.

Across the American Market Fiat's presence dates back to 70's and 80's with the tragic exit from this market in 1985 and the joke on the industry's name "Fix It Again Tony"[4], related to the poor reliability of its products. Within the last year, the quality and the reliability of the product has improved a lot and within 2012 the goal is to get back to the Italian small, eco-friendly and fancy model (the small stylish 500 and the small sporty MiTo model) together with the technology on Chrysler model. (Hoovers, 2009)

Timing of Entrance

The entrance into a market is defined as the capacity to get the first-mover advantages related to enter it earlier than your competitors. One can be assumed Fiat is exploiting the fist-movers advantage related to the market segment of small and fuel efficient cars. Due to the global crisis, the pain related to the petrol exhaustion and the push of the Obama's administration towards sustainability, car producers like Ford, GM and Toyota started to change their production strategy, focusing on this unexploited sector. American customers also started changing their consumer behaviour avoiding the big, expensive and petrol consuming cars. Fiat will export in this market the small stylish 500 and the small sporty MiTo which are already designed, engineered and equipped with the most recent fuel saving technology, developed by Fiat's R&D division. On the other hand Chrysler will give expertise on the electric hybrid engines as their Research and Development is well-advanced whose sector is occupied by Japanese Toyota with some hybrid economic cars and other major producers with some prototypes.

Entry Model and Risk Analysis

The entry mode is the framework that a company decides to use to internationalize itself. Each different mode maximizes or minimizes advantages and disadvantages in terms of costs related to production, economies of scale's effects, supply chain management, exploiting of learning curves and minimization of the risk related to the outsourcing of strategic knowledge. The deal between FIAT and Chrysler is a result of economic, business, financial, political and social bargaining and the model adopted for the internationalization is deeply affected by the involvement of these parts. The table presented in the Appendix B resumes the interest and the needs of each part.

`Fiat- Chrysler alliance can be seen as a hybrid model which involves the exporting one, the licensing agreement one and the joint venture one.

FIAT will export some Italian models which will not be produced by Chrysler plants, so it is already for many other countries. This will help to saturate the actual production capacity which is not exploited at best. Fiat has to take in consideration when it will reduce or move the capacity to US avoiding any kind of social problem related to the shutdown of European plants and the consequent firing of European employees. In some cases, such as the plant of Termini Merese, employees have already started to protest against the US alliance.( Ida Rotano, 18 june 2009)

FIAT will license to use the well-advanced technology, developed in the Research and Development centre of the group, concerning low emission, fuel saving engines and transmission. Bob Nardelli evaluates this between 8 and 10 Billion $. As already said, Chrysler will apply Multi-Jet and Multi-Air technology to Chrysler big engines for Jeep, Doge and some Chrysler sedan models. FIAT will not receive any Royalties or payment for this exchange, due to the 35% stack on Chrysler equity. Moreover FIAT will use some of the plants to produce its 500 model and Alfa Romeo's MiTo, in order to better customize the product by shaping it on the local US preferences, to reach a better usage of the production capacity of the Detroit's giant and to reduce the shipping cost. FIAT will also use the commercial network of Chrysler to sell its brand product exploiting at best the well spread net of retailers. With this model FIAT wants to break the rivalry among other competitors. A licensed model allows FIAT to compete without a relevant financial commitment but, on the other hand, it could limit the coordination and the control in the overseas operation. It has to be underlined that for this reason FIAT will elect 3 trusted Directors on Chrysler's Board of Directors. (Bartiromo, 4 June 2009)

FIAT will exploit all the benefits of a Joint Venture model without settling a new company but just collaborating on the Research and Development activities, sharing expertise on Hybrid engine, and on the designing of a new model. In particular a new Lancia flagship model based on the Chrysler 300c sedan, and about an Alfa Rome SUV based on Jeep and Dodge platform, segments which are not actually covered by any Italian model.

In conclusion, Fiat has got a low comparative level of risk. As aforementioned, it did not occupy any relevant amount of money within the operation, thus avoiding what is usually the major risk in any alliance. Typically, in failures of alliances, companies lose the potential future value (which would have been obtained by the alliance itself), and also the vast amount of money that was invested. Moreover, Fiat within the 2012 will have the possibility to get some more stacks previous reaching of settled financial performance of the new Chrysler.( Agency Group, 30 April 2009)

Recommendations

Positioning

Considering the actual positioning of the Group, there seems to be the opportunity to enlarge the presence of the American market in other segments (such as the big family car with the successful Alfa 159), and moreover to enlarge the alliance to other sectors of production, involving the commercial and truck companies of both groups. Specifically in the truck sector, both companies have great expertise. Collaboration in the designing and development of new models will help them in dealing with the American environment law enforcement.

The possibility of using expertise taken from the controlled Jeep and Dodge will have to be exploited by investing many more resources in developing a new model for the European Market in order to successfully penetrate the above mentioned segment.

Timing of Entrance

Fiat has to maintain and increase the advantage on small and petrol-saving cars, but it also has to boost the development of hybrid and electric cars, exploiting the knowledge of Chrysler in this area. In 2010 Toyota will launch the 3rd generation of hybrid Prius and it is most likely that the demand of hybrid and electric cars will spread also across European and Asian markets due to the raising pressure on the fluctuation of petrol cost. For this reason, Fiat will also have to exploit and increase the development of the TetraFuel Engine technology which, nowadays, is only produced for developing countries such as China or South America.

Recommendation to risk related to specific entry model

The biggest source of risk related to the licensing alliance is the closing of control over the shared knowledge, which can lead to losing competitive advantage or patent infringement. To avoid this situation the two companies have to set on contractual safeguard, or rather a bilateral agreement to protect and regulate the sharing of knowledge in order to avoid any kind of misuse of this shared knowledge. In fact, it is often the case that there is one member of the alliance who takes advantage of the other side's knowledge in order to compete and possibly push out of the market its counterpart. In order to hedge the level of risk in the exchange of technologies already developed, the two parties of the alliance will swap some of these technologies and platforms of production to guard against any opportunistic misusage by any of the two parties. Both Fiat and Chrysler will use common platforms to design and produce some new models and will develop new engines by using technologies coming equally from both sides. The last factor, which will reduce the possibility of a sinking alliance, is the commitment of both Companies' management. The 3 directors chosen by Fiat will ensure that Chrysler will not drive against Fiat's interest and there will be a constant bridge ensuring and aligning the successful reaching of objectives by the two organizations.

Conclusions

Although Fiat has not succeeded to develop any hybrid or electronic car, Fiat seems to be able to share the US automotive industry. First of all, Fiat has appealed leading products such as Alpha Romeo. In fact, Fiat has succeeded to expand their sales around the world. Also, Fiat seems to have less concern of culture adaptation to their products thanks to alliance with one of the big US carmaker, Chrysler. It brings the best approach to take customer demands in US automotive market. Furthermore, the partnership between Fiat and Chrysler allows standardize or co-operate their design, product components and advanced technology. However, there is an apprehension of divest for Fiat in US market because of restrict Obama's environmental policy to automotive industry. Yet, the same as Chrysler, Fiat has not succeed to develop any hybrid or electronic. The competitive products of Fiat is offering luxury vehicles aimed at middle-income class rather than passenger cars which have the highest demand in US automotive industry. Thus, although Fiat has invested to US market, Fiat needs to be patient to boost their market share in US, with developing more environmentally friendly passenger cars in long-term.

References:

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Appendix A

US Automotive Industry

The industry is dominated by the Big Three US firms and three Japanese companies in the US (Honda Motor, Toyota Motor and Nissan Motor). The Big Three face over capacity, healthcare liabilities and huge unfunded pension and the competition with Japanese Rivals. The Big Three have been losing their share recently. In fact, GM and Chrysler entered bankruptcy in June and April this year. At present, GM is owned by the US and Canadian governments, bondholders and the UAW union after the reorganization. The Italy's largest carmaker Fiat, the UAW union, and the US government control Chrysler together.

The US is the one-fifth global automotive sales around the world. One of main drivers of the US economy is the automotive industry. The direct employment accounted to over 800,000 at the end of 2008. If it was including the related sectors, the number could be 13m jobs. America is also the second largest producers of passenger cars in the automotive industry after Japan in the world; the measure is including light trucks.

After months of difficult period, the industry had started being stable in October by the sales. Total sales of cars and light trucks were remained the same, just over 838,000, compared with October of the last year, but was 12 % more than September 2009. The outcomes showed that some consumers are starting to spend again and the economy is beginning to turnover.

Due to the new fuel economy standard rules, the Chrysler is going to develop fuel-efficient cars according to the news from the New York Times (wheels.blogs.nytimes.com). A statistic of the automotive industry presented the August retail numbers were boots by a surge in motor vehicle sales because of the incentive "cash for clunkers", and by higher petrol sales on the back of rising oil prices, but non-car-related sales also improved (see Table 5). However, the auto sale could continue to pull down because the unemployment rate is the highest in September over 26 years, and the consumer confidence is still unstable. They are worried about the earnings and the economy would still worsen in the future.

  1. "Possible Chrysler savior Fiat has low reliability scores" By James R. Healey, USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2009-03-31-fiat_N.htm
  2. "Possible Chrysler savior Fiat has low reliability scores" By James R. Healey, USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2009-03-31-fiat_N.htm
  3. OHV (Over Head Valve) - an engine design where the Camshaft is installed inside the engine block and valves are operated through lifters, pushrods and rocker arms.
  4. "Fiat (Fix it again, Tony) - Chrysler merger: what do they get out of this?" By Amarendra Bhushan for CEOWORLD Magazine http://ceoworld.biz/ceo/2009/06/16/fiat-fix-it-again-tony-chrysler-merger-what-do-they-get-out-of-this/
  5. http://www.chryslerrestructuring.com/chr/Markets%20Outside%20of%20North%20America%20FAQs_5-08-09%204%20p%20m%20_3_.pdf
  6. Chrysler-Fiat Finalize Accord - BusinessWeek.mht
  7. http://bx.businessweek.com/chrysler-llc/view?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmedia.gmacfs.com%2Findex.php%3Fs%3D43%26item%3D331
  8. NARDELLI ON THE FUTURE OF CHRYSLER--WITH OR WITHOUT FIAT.///// BusinessWeek; 4/6/2009, Issue 4125, p21-22, 2p, 2 color
  9. Chrysler may use Fiat engine system in some U.S. models.mht
  10. NARDELLI ON THE FUTURE OF CHRYSLER--WITH OR WITHOUT FIAT.///// BusinessWeek; 4/6/2009, Issue 4125, p21-22, 2p, 2 color
  11. Chrysler-Fiat Finalize Accord - BusinessWeek.mht

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