Compared to the operational simplicity of most mainstream car companies, FIAT SpA compares to a Rubik's Cube, over the years its may different divisions 'sliced and diced' relative to the purveying economic age.
To the Agnelli forebears and today's Board and executives, the beast's complex conglomerate structure has provided both economically cyclical headaches and up-lifts, and as the innate heart of Italian industrial manufacturing has served as the linch-pin of the country's idealised internal economic stability and a primary conductor of export/foreign market income.
Its portfolio of car marques aggregated and split relative to reformed business models, its commercial vehicles section multi-variously in-house and narrow or with JV broad reach, its Agricultural Construction machinery section swallowing acquired brands and spitting them out as a combine harvester would, a components business' on-off profitability akin to the characteristics of electro-mechanical brakes, a castings/forgings business that has seemingly baked-in intentionally low costings and a production plant business internally caught in a 'catch 22' of schizophrenic labour relations given its efficiency function versus FIAT's paternal persona.
Today, FIAT SpA faces the two prime internal challenges of volume growth to gain scale efficiencies (and remain a prime player) and brand/product consumer connection creating the sales base.
[NB the conventional car-maker thinking of production-led sales is a necessary evil for FIAT given its past & position].
With the corporation also facing the the two prime external challenges of ever reducing government support – especially so in these budget constrained times – and what seems sections of an increasingly entrenched labour force.
[NB. The latter almost intentionally naive to the realities of hyper-competitive globalised production, some southern region Mezzogiorno unions apparently still viewing state and industrial aided funding a near social right stemming from the 1950s 'Cassa per il Mezzogiorno' era].
It is these 4 headwinds which foresighted auto-sector observers and CEO Marchionne recognised almost a decade ago, the fact that narrow footprint auto-makers (specifically Renault, VW & FIAT) must set out new transformational courses.
The capture of Chrysler is of course intended to meet the volume and broad market penetration needs, whilst the recently announced split of FIAT SpA into separately (ultimately listed) FIAT Autos (inc Chrysler) and FIAT Industrials intends to create stand-alone entities.
Their new conspicuousness inherently demands strengthened strategy & management capabilities, highlights the need for labour reform given their 'lean-running', requires greater accounting transparency (so better spotlighting employee productivity costs) and so intendedly entice investor interest by demonstrating that the worst of 'old FIAT' has been jettisoned in favour of a leaner, cost-centre conscious and so globally competitive set of loose network companies.
Having laid out the vision through a 5 hour presentation in April, the hard task of ensuring full exploitation of FIAT-Chrysler synergies has started, aswell as creating the beginning of an equally robust structural platform for the new Industrial division.
Q1 2010 Performance -
The Group as a whole has benefited from the 2009 & early 2010 economic resuscitation, yet the massive rebound in Autos sales as a direct result of state incentives (not true economic strength) which also boosted the Parts subsiduaries, has at Group level, been somewhat undermined by a still slow recovery in the Commercials and AgCon (Agricultural & Construction) sections.
Overall Group Q1 2010 Revenues improved by 14.7% to E12.926bn, giving a measured Trading Profit of E352m (versus E-48m in the preceding Q1), more than half the contribution given by the cars business. A 'walk through' to Net Result shows the impact of accounting deductions from the Trading Profit level. From E352m Trading Profit no exceptional charges were levied so offering a similar E352 Operating Profit. From this is deducted E-250m for Financial Charges, whilst E55 was forthcoming from investment income, giving a PbT Result of E157m with a PaT (rather Loss after Tax) of E-21m
The Car & LCV division's worldwide sales increased by 14.1% YoY in Q1, with FGA seeing an 8% rise (to 387k units from 358k units), Lancia seeing a 45% rise (to 29k from 20k units), Alfa-Romeo seeing 7% rise (to 22k units from 21k units), and LCVs up 44% (to 95k units from 44k units). YoY worldwide sales from 2008 to 2009 staid virtually flat at 2.15m units.
European car sales were up appreciably in Q1 YoY thanks to the tail-end effect of scrappage schemes, the up-lift giving a 20% buoyancy effect to the general market & TIV. However, FIAT share in the EU dropped -0.3% to 8.6%, even with slight seemingly momentary gains in the UK and Spain; the external prime markets of Germany and France down -2.5% & -0.6% respectively.
Whilst Car & LCV production was reduced by -6.5% since Q409 to align with reduced demand, the fact that units sold increasingly diverge from units registered (Q1 showing 532k units sold versus 580k registered) shows that dealers are pre-registering unsold cars in order to give them negotiation leeway with customers so as to 'shift metal'. FIAT states that a fight is imminent for sales, and so it appears that
FIAT proudly claims the Cars division to have been in the black throughout the recession except for Q109. Cars division Revenue reached E7.33bn, of which FGA (FIAT, Lancia, Alfa-Romeo Arbath) represented E6.8bn (up 22% YoY), whilst the operationally separating Maserati and Ferrari saw E127m (up 10.4%) and E414m (down -6.1%) respectively. Cars division Trading Profit reached E196m of which FGA was E153m, (with Maserati E39m & Ferrari E4m), due primarily to lift in volumes, favourable model mix and contribution from the LCV section. Importantly for FGA, favourable FX conditions of an ever-weakening Euro off-set the substantial sales drop in Germany as scrappage incentives were eased. Maserati maintained momentum thanks to demand for GranTurismo cabrio, whilst Ferrari supposedly suffered awaiting ramp-up of the F458 Italia.
LCVs faired better than Cars in terms of European market share, with a 1.4% increase to 13.5% market capture., primarily due to new Doblo compact van.
The Commercial (Iveco) division has suffered in W.EU as the general economic weakness seen in H209 amongst corporate vehicle buyers continued into Q1 2010. Whilst the Q1 TIV in light trucks grew by 2%, medium trucks lost -20% and heavy trucks a massive -33%. The company made marginal progress in light and heavy segment sales of 0.7% and 1% increases respectively.
Yet within these harsh conditions Iveco provided a Revenue increase of 11.2% to E1.69bn, and a Trading Profit of E3m (versus E-12m last year), reflecting what appears good leadership regards early-stage cost-containment, efficient marketing methods and seeming leverage of internal credit avenues to offer client credit.
However, Iveco's previous reasonable expectation of 2010 sales (W.EU +2.5%, E.EU Flat, LA approx +5%) will have been undermined by the later-date EU sovereign debt crisis. This has direct ramifications of even tighter budget control for all European based truck users'; from SMEs to large fleet. Thus with associative CapEx reductions, customer truck re-placement schedules will be (yet again) extended, which in turn keeps the pressure on Iveco in Europe.
The Components & Systems division provided a Revenue of E2.91bn, and a Trading Profit of E32m, this dramatically up thanks to the previous passenger & LCV demand pull.
The AgCon (CNH) division provided a Revenue of E2.57bn (roughly flat relative to 2009, giving a Trading Profit of E127m; results reflecting the softening of NA tractor demand and soft EU area AgCon requirements, these off-set by growing RoW demand for agricultural and construction equipment.
Other second tier corporate divisions and eliminations generated a top-line Revenue Profit/Loss of E-1.59bn, which in turn gave a Trading Profit/Loss of E-6m.
By end Q1 the Group's Net Financial Result saw reduced deficit to E-21m from the previous year's E-411m. Net Industrial Debt rose by E0.3bn to E4.7bn between YE09 and Q1, this E0.3bn increase reportedly off-set by cash-flow increase and efficiency cost capture. The corporate cash-cushion saw a E1.2bn cash burn through Q1, down to E11.2bn from YE09's E12.4bn
FIAT's vehicle sales are approximately split as: 1/3 Italy, 1/3 EU (ex Italy) and 1/3 Brazil; the remaining RoW accounting for roughly 5%. This shows FIAT dominance and so reliance upon 3 markets, 2 of which are essentially inter-connected and 2 of which are singular countries. It is of little surprise that the company wishes to reach into alternative, theoretically counter-cyclical, regions of NA and other EM areas such as Russia, India and China, and stretch its current penetration of the near & Middle East. Critically Marchionne (in contrast to PSA) views that global coverage is the only route to tenable long-term existence; this echoed by Renault-Nissan and effectively pre-played and defended by GM, Ford, VW, Daimler, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai-Kia.
Obviously given the Chrysler purchase and still massive US consumer demand, North America is a primary objective. And so the FIAT 500 introduction will be followed by Alfa Romeo, Abarth variants of FIAT cars and latterly FIAT branded vehicles. As is known Lancia cars are being re-engineered and newly engineered to meet NA specification, as are FIAT vans, thus through 'badge engineering' providing for a suite of new passenger car and commercials vehicles, branded as Chryslers and Dodges.
Beyond this tactical approach to entwine the US and Italian companies, the previously mentioned 'top-down' Italian brand introduction strategy would be a natural consequence given the price-position and halo effects of Ferrari and Maserati profile in NA; a reality hard fought and providing the best 'hook' on which to hang latter-day serial introductions.
And to this end FIAT understands the need to better correlate the prestige of Ferrari to the US historic variable reputations of the other family marques.
Differing yet recent FT reports pointedly demonstrate this as a Group ambition baked into the Ferrari business agenda. Ferrari executives' desirous to leverage the prime visibility platform of Formula One by finally breaking through into US auto-culture - thus the forefront of the American populace's consciousness. To do so would set historical precedent. The search for that 'golden formula' has led Cordero di Montezemolo to discuss the backing of a new US based Ferrari team with Chad Hurley, the creator of YouTube.com with close affiliation to Google. This is perhaps the obvious 'close-connect' and cost-efficient marketing channel for a younger target demographic that is new to Alfa-Romeo, Abarth & FIAT and who, unlike their parents, don't harbour poor memories of those brands in the US and Canada. Moreover, reaching toward the more open and brand promiscuous young would help bridge the generation gap. The hypothesis seems to be that by enthusing the young into following F1, the typically NASCAR & Indy Car loyal father would follow.
This is a laudible creative position to take, yet the recession itself may have indeed strengthened America's psychological connection to things 'All American' including motorsport.
Moreover, with this a context, FIAT seniors know that the prime sports TV channels of ESPN or HBO would be hard pressed to agree transmittal of US & Worldwide F1 races given their advertisers'/sponsors' requirement to attract certain viewing figures. Speed TV specialising in MotorSport is an alternative, but the YouTube option was no doubt deemed far more cost-effective relative to the risk-reward, relative to any TV subsidy probably required, let alone the contractual issues to be had with Bernie Eccelstone's FOMA, who hold global F1 TV rights.
Across in Europe FGA and Chrysler took additional steps in integrating EU distribution operations. Whilst still early days and primarily relative to logistics and vehicle shipping, this action will ultimately bolster Chrysler's continental presence enormously since the post 2000 shrinkage of the Chrysler-Jeep dealer-base.
In Russia, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Stollers for local production of cars and SUVs, thereby moving beyond the Avtovaz agreement to strengthen JV ties and resultantly the local FIAT model portfolio. Moreover, a new agreement has been recently finalised with Kamaz to broaden JV activities by manufacturing and marketing CNH Agricultural & Construction equipment
The given impression is that Ferrari & Maserati, as not part of FGA, will remain with the Exor investment vehicle - the family holding company - operating withits own allied and seperate interests once Autos and Industrials are formerly split and floated.
This is of course a very wise move given the present under-performance of the supercar and GT companies thus availing Exor to a latter-day surge in sales and profitability as the western economy rejoins the prosperity of EM economies: the effective support-pillar for luxury vehicle demand in recent years. Moreover, in addition to today's high price-point model range, new more affordable models will be introduced - primarily so at Maserati – which can utilise FGA-Chrysler common platforms & components, so able to reduce its procurement costs by exploiting already partially 'baked-in' & possibly fully amortised costs. The natural avenue to enable increased unit margins and so overall Maserati & Ferrari profitability, monies attributable directly to the parent holding company and so to Elkann, other Agnelli relatives and other investor parties.
Company seniors recognise that 2 of their 3 prime car markets will heavily contract (Italy) and sizably contract (EU), leaving only a still buoyant Brazil to take up the slack. Yet even with the additional capacity generated by Brazil's near-term 5-8% pa growth rate, its substitution effect alone looks unlikely off-set the levels of Italian and EU shrinkage. Moreover, as Brazilian market leader (at 23.5%) FIAT must be acutely aware of share erosion from competitors, just as it surpassed VW Brazil in recent years, but has witnessed its share slip 2% as the market expanded; thus it is no surprise that the new Uno model has been developed in Brazil with the task of maintaining FIAT's leading market position. Hence to combat, critical advances must be made throughout Latin & Central America versus the regional leaders GM & VW and the increasing threat from #4 Ford and new entrant Koreans (Hyundai-Kia & Renault-Samsung).
From ma RoW perspective, the other good news story should come from Russia, given its role as a primary commodities exporter, and thus theoretically an early rebound economy. More immediate though of lesser market value, there are currently strong economic fundamentals for the Near East and North Africa. But of course FIAt sees China & India as primary long-term markets beyond North America, so constant activity will be expected there.
[NB South Africa to marginally contract as natural recoil post World Cup boost].
Since the partial acquisition of the flailing US player, FIAT SpA's automotive interests comprises of the historically generated FGA portfolio of Italian marques – Ferrari & Maserati accounted separately – and Chrysler LLC.
The Pan-European government scrappage incentives served FIAT badged cars well through 2009 and early 2010, but investment-auto-motives believes the schemes' retraction will have sizable consequences for FIAT cars given that such a helpful 'FIAT skew' – especially to aging Panda & Grande /Evo Punto - is now effectively lost.
May saw the introduction of the new B-segment Uno model which has been largely conspicuous by its absence in recent years in the FIAT model range. As mentioned in previous posts the Brazilian developed and targeted vehicle is expected to perform well across Brazil, other Latin countries and other EM regions where FIAT has a good foothold. Designed as a clean and simple 'grown-up' Panda with chunky soft-roader appearance instilling good ground clearance and suspension travel for pot-holed roads, the car is essentially an EM product. Out of step with EU B-segment cars and close in DNA spirit to Doblo, there is a concern that it will not manage to counteract the consumer slack in W.EU countries given its more rudimentary appearance, though should be well received by CEE countries and areas beyond the Baltics such as Turkey.
In FIAT's favour it should provide influence over any yet to be revealed 2011 styling upate of smaller Panda which has always sat between the two aesthetic stools of functionality vs sophistication. The similar volumes and proportions would allow Panda to visually mimic Uno, and done so with relatively little CapEx spend since only exterior panels, trim and lamp clusters would be renewed.
In the struggling Alfa-Romeo camp small Mito has been followed by compact Giulietta so as to bolster what have been terrible – and value destroying – sales figures at around 100k pa. The small cars developed from FIAT sister platforms have in their early stages gained credibility as spiritual successors and will re-build Alfa's relevance in the now hotly contested premium small cars segments. However, as with all cars Italian and especially so Alfa, non-Italian markets quality and durability will be a key factor in re-building the marque's reputation as more than slickly styled short lifespan cars.
But the recognised avenue to improving sales volumes and unit margins it will be greatly assisted by the morphing of Lancia and Chrysler product development and manufacturing capacity, Lancia essentially offering small and compact cars to its sibling (essentially re-inventing the yesteryear Neon and others) whilst Chrysler offers large cars, MPVs, SUVs (and to FIAT pick-up trucks).
And partly underpinning the 5 Year Plan is the new inter-connected 3-tier platform range for mini, small, compact cars, each offering flexible wheelbase, flexible wheel track, flexible body length and flexible body width which set together seeks to gain greatly increased scale efficiencies.
However, auto-sector analysts much be wary of possible number-fudging that can occur regards platform numbers and reached and forecast volumes. These figures are typically open to broad interpretation by those generating them and there are no defined methods of exactly calculation.
Each manufacturer will have its own method (by parts count and parts value) and though of course internally understands the exactitude of platform details is understandably loathed to publish such sensitive data – the lack of pure transparency in externally calculable NPD progress a frustration.
Equally, investors should remain cognoscenteee of the claims that FIAT and others make regards the reduction of programme timelines for new product development, the general case being that complete platform platform changes take an industry average of 24-30 months, whilst new model variants anregenerateded replacement series vehicle from the same platform can be developed in typically 15-20 months. So the oft proclaimed time and cost savings for new model programmes can be largely contributed to the fact that so much less original engineering much take place. The same of course true for powertrain programmes from standard engine and gearbox families. However, the ideal for as much common structures & parts standardisation as feasible without detrimental effect on brand experience is of course true, so assisting across the board NPD efforts.
Given its importance to the group – and Italian economic well-being previously - the Commercial arm has always sought to balance the need for cost-competitiveness versus breadth of product offering, hence its use of car platforms, joint venture partnerships, historical competitor acquisitions and coverage of what it sees as specialised high-value business such as military and emergency service vehicles.
Rebranded as 'Professional' 2 years ago has a broad vehicle range spanning the commercial needs of sole-traders, SMEs, mid and large private fleet, utility fleet aswell as public & municipal.
It encompasses the historic acquisition of various Italian, German & UK businesses and consists of: FIAT designed car based city vans, car derived LCVs (via a JV with PSA & Tofas) (spinning-off the Qubo MPV), small vans (via its Sevel 'Eurovan' JV with PSA), large-sized vans and associated chassis-cab trucks (again via a PSA JV), plus midi-HGVs and large HGVs in the form of trucks, buses & coaches, aswell as specialist military and commercial conversion services and dedicated task vehicles.
Truck, Bus & Specialist:
As mentioned, the H2 2010 outlook now looks bleaker than forecast in March given the ramifications of the EU sovereign debt crisis and the raising cost of capital for SME and fleet operators.
Thus company executives must obviously recognise Iveco must partially off-set near-term 'lost' new product sales income with an income expansion of its parts and service dealings. A tertiary initiative to ideally corroborate with the FIAT Professional division to avail lower cost transport relative CapEx solutions where useful. Such an inter-divisional agreement (possibly of 2-way use for Iveco) must be based on meaningful successful sale transfer/commission rates and sound non-compete criteria
However, even with such initiatives, it is still Parts & Service that must do the 'heavy lifting' so must market themselves adequately – even under budgetary constraint themselves - to demonstrate the economic value of parts replacement and control systems monitoring to customers by providing extended truck life at on/near optimum running specification so as to reduce overall vehicle running costs. Such an effort could also include 'sympathetic driver' training or sum such, installing one or more of the acutely knowledgeable factory staff into 'Iveco Gurus', much as the likes of Rolls-Royce and Land-Rover recognised to do many years ago.
Such efforts may need to bridge the income chasm until late 2012 when a combination of expectedly eased capital markets and regulatory demands for Euro IV emissions compliance. Moreover Iveco expects a return to a “normalized” level of EU sales – relative to 2008 volume – by 2014, and a gradual YoY increase in product demand to that renewed high. But given such ongoing fiscally fragile times, it may only be the Euro IV demand that creates a late 2012 nominal surge, with thereafter flat sales through 2013 and no 2014 peak, thus with the possibility of little real earlier demand pull that substantiates the stepped YoY forecast. This plausible scenario has obvious consequences for the ideal of a gradual build-up of plant utilisation, presently well under-capacity at only approximately 44% utilisation of its 191K full capacity. Thus Iveco would have to 'swallow' a greater portion of the unproductive over-head costs over a greater timescale, which has obvious impact on the division's contribution to Group income.
The saving grace is as ever Brazil and China, with the former seeing the new model launch of the medium sized rigid body Vertis model formed on a lower cost Chinese parts supplied and module built platform, which should theoretically offer additional unit margin, or if the market contracts, necessary pricing elasticity. The heavy class trucks see a major modification in 2011, whilst Euro V adaptions are made in 2012 where required in light & medium classes.
Regional in-market presence is being nurtured with 'hub & spoke' official dealership numbers growing from 44 sites in 2006, 79 in 2009 and expected 90 by YE2010. Conversely the number of authorised workshops is maintained at 15 so as to re-route custom to official dealers thus offering better client experience and on-sell opportunities.
As demand for conventional trucks slipped IVECO put greater focus on growing its Specialist HGV section, consisting of Defence Vehicles (Iveco DV), Fire-Fighting Vehicles and Construction Task-Tailored Vehicles.
Fire-Fighting competence is being expanded beyond municpal applications and into Airport Emergency support vehicles, whilst Construction Task products will evolve from present and new customers. The DV section cater for across the board 'Light Green' activities ranging from reconnaissancee & tactical with LMV (light multi-role vehicle) to its patrol MPV (medium protected vehicle) to the 6x6 HGV for off-highway single container transport to 8x8 semi-off-highway for multi-loads and offers what seems limited capability in Dark Green Fighting Vehicles. As the theatre of war changes to smaller regional-specific conflicts new products are being developed to assist. However, this 'game-change' to armoured patrol and adapted logistics vehicles broadens the business opportunity to far more firms, small and large, and so Iveco will be increasingly competing
against emergent companies and JVs such as Force Protection Inc & Ricardo Engineering.
Italy as with the UK and others seeks Defence Goods exports to bolster balance of trade payments, Whilst Iveco may hold its position in logistics expanding sales in LMV & MPV segments may be harder beyond Italian forces needs given the level of new competition. However, Iveco's standing in Brazil and Latin America should make it the obvious choice for re-equipping Latin forces so as to maintain as much efficiency as possible in central sourced purchasing, scale discounts and in the field critical component commonality.
The Bus & Coach section's continued rationalisation is necessary given the reduced sector TIV in W.EU and thus increased competition in this already well populated arena, which has seen a sizemic shift in cost-base importance and increased the necessary flexibility regards internal versus external coach-building activities.
Moreover the Iveco 'bendy' (articulated) city-bus faces greater competition from Daimler, MAN, Volvo, Scania and other domestic manufacturers in EM regions.
Given the shrinkage in western public expenditure budgets and the constraint on private company balance sheets the bus and coach replacement schedule will theoretically be worse than the truck demand profile. Furthermore in a bid to evolve their own economic bases EM regions will continue t use the JV business model which for the proprietary technology provider (here Iveco) relies on volume given the profit-share split between JV partners. Thus much depends upon the realisation of infrastructure build programmes – which is country specific: China of course the most prolific, whilst Brazil & India drag their feet regards road upgrading. Moreover, in the non BRIC EM regions user expectations and requirements may be drastically different and so (again for economic development) body-building and interior fit operations – typically on used chassis cabs -may be locally sourced and rudimentary.
[NB Iveco holds 3 Chinese JVs across the 3 truck/bus classes, one with Naveco, and 2 with SAIC for structure & powertrain (via Iveco FPT)].
Thus Iveco bus will need to carefully map-out the changing terrain to appreciably grow its bus & coach section, taking close attention at the 'old guard' and newcomer competitor set, let alone reach its overtly optimistic 2014 capacity target of 450k units and E80m allocated profit share.
2010 for Iveco shows increased CapEx supporting 3 replacement model programmes, thus incurring a reduction in the ideal CapEx vs Depreciation balance and so increasing cash burn. The ratio metric of CapEx (excluding R&D) to Depreciation rises from 0.72 in 2009 to 2.76 in 2011.
Until the EU's recent financial stumble, the 2010 Net Revenues forecast looked amenable at E7.9bn versus E7.2bn in 2009. However Italian fiscal contraction plus EU contraction and now even Chinese slight contraction seem very unlikely to be off-set by Brazilian demand, so the whilst a 'double dip' recession in the west is unlikely the 'forward slanted J' of minimal growth drag that investment-auto-motives predicted in late 2008 looks to undermine even recent conservative Iveco estimates.
Components & Production Systems:
The components and manufacturing systems subsidiaries enjoyed a welcome uplift, piggy-backing the renewed EU demand in low CO2 small and compact cars through 2009 and early 2010, and of course surging BRIC regional sales growth. Having experienced relatively heavy restructuring in 2008-9 (given the innate Italian constriction on labour policy) the 3 divisions were better 'shaped' tin terms of the workforce, input & output inventory levels, with only the sales and receivables elements of their accounts put under pressure from the Group at large; this in itself forcing efficiency seeking.
This division offers multi-systems components and modules spanning: lighting, powertrain control systems, shock absorbers (variant solutions), suspension modules, in-car electronic display & control systems, large section plastic housings (eg dashboard, bumper sets), after-market parts, and Racing sector engineering services and specialist parts.
Already globally 'in place' with production plants, R&D facilities and Applications centres, it represents one of the cornerstones in delivering Marchionne's 5 year global expansion plan for FIAT Auto.
Its 2009 (& 2010E) Revenue was/to be generated in the following manner: by source mix, regional mix & systems mix.
Income Source Balance: 50% FIAT Captive & 50% External
Regional Mix: 52% (68%) EU, 22% CEE, 18% (21%) Mercosaur., 3% (5%) NAFTA, 3% (4%) China, 2% (2%) RoW
Systems Mix: 26% (30%) Lighting, 11% (13%) Electronics, 18% (17%) Powertrain, 45% (40%) Remainder (ie Shocks, suspension modules, plastic housings, exhaust and after market).
This shows that whilst the product mix is changing for the better, that 45-40% of income is derived from what is realistically 'low-value' products. These suffer from large pricing-elasticity due to both competitor severity in the arena from China, India, Thailand and Latin America aswell as high exposure to volatile input pricing relative to commodities prices. Lighting at 30-26% of Revenue represents essentially mid-value, whilst only a combined 29-30 % from Electronics & Powertrain represent 'high-value' pricing business models. This the case even though MM describes itself as in the 'high-end' components business, though observers will recognise that 'organic shift' as opposed to 'acquisitional shift' takes longer but delivers greater embedded internal knowledge.
[NB. The need for western players to walk-up (indeed jump-up) the value-ladder within the sector was perhaps best exemplified by Continental AG's acquisition of various Electronics players including Siemens VDO Automotive].
However, even with 'only' 29% from such high-stream income, MM illustrates that its R&D competence sits across a broad scope of slow, medium and faster growth electronic technology disciplines, highlighting its coverage in all but EV related Battery Propulsion Systems and Syncronous Motors. However even with such coverage investment-auto-motives suggests that MM is a 'fast-follower' as opposed to market leader, which whilst assisting the mainstream FIAT marque arguably detracts from Alfa-Romeo's, Lancia's & Abarth's more advanced customer facing technology needs (as opposed to inherently engineered 'invisible' solutions such as the Multi-Air induction system in Alfa's). Although an in-car infotainment strategy has been established across the family of brands using modular tech packs, more may have to be done to further generate brand differentiation between FIAT, Arbarth, Alfa and Lancia
MM's 2014 business ambitions of holding EU's E1bn sales, expanding NAFTA's E0.3bn, expanding Latin America's E0.1bn, increasing Asia's E0.2bn with 'full-line' BRIC presence do not surprise. Nor does continued 'captive supply' to FGA and Ferrari-Maserati clients, and achieving a competitive cost base. Essentially reflecting the intent to build on today's business foundations.
The dynamic of recently increased sales shows that MM is successfully availing itself to BRIC located customers, with 80% of all new business in these regions across high and mid-value component bases – typically the case given the in situ presence of low-value suppliers often initially nation-state backed.
The natural correlated concern is that with 45-40% of income derived from low-value items, there is the potential that clients and even FGA (once listed) could source from elsewhere more cheaply, thus potentially strangling that income stream quite quickly. So managing the transition up the value-curve will be critical and in the mid-term could feasibly generate conditions for low-value tooling, plant and land asset disposals.
The CapEx profile is similar to the trucks division, cash demand ramping-up over 2010 and peaking in 2011on new technology programmes in support of next generation Cars & LCVs. However the Capex (exc R&D) vs Depreciation metrics are less severe, rising from 2009's 1.17 to 2010's 1.28 to 2011's 1.71, before sharply falling and returning to 1.17 in 2012 and deflating thereafter.
Less ambitious financial targets over the next few years - as compared to the truck division counterpart – highlight that MM management recognise the pitfall of over-promising on what could ultimately be disappointing performance; which given the transition state of the company illustrates a welcome conservatism.
However with the additional supply of mid and high value parts to its new Chrysler client, that underplay of income levels may well have been purposefully presented so as to beat guidance and so analysts expectations over 2010 and 2011.
FIAT Powertrain Technologies produce power delivery solutions for use in various engine types/applications. A simple overview of the business mix shows an overwhelming 84% of revenues generated from FIAT Group (63% FGA, 15% Iveco, 6% CNH). By application it shows 72% of revenues from Cars & LCVs, 17% from Heavy-Duty (on & Off Highway), 8% Industrial, 2% Power Generation, and 2% Marine.
Technology delivery over previous years has been welcomed by of course FIAT, the motoring press and FIAT loyalist customers, however as with Magneti Morelli delivery, FPT seems to operate as both a 'fast follower' in the case of dual-clutch gearboxes and MultiAir which is essentially a VVT-based systems (developed in Japan 20 years ago) allied with 4 valves per cylinder and turbo-charging. As id often the case behind the PR, much of the lauded ICE-based technology advancement is simply solution re-adoption instead of true origination.
However, there is probably room for improvement and so profitability, via not only Hybrid, EV, CNG opportunity creation, but most importantly through continued operational efficiency seeking and the creation of well defined 'cost' & 'performance' strategies for its different client bases: FGA versus external western and eastern OEM parties.
If FPT can pull-out cost from MultiAir it could conceivable make it 'the' (contract manufactured) adopted engine of choice for others, much as VM did cor commercial diesels. And developing MultiAir 2's successor to be significantly better performing – possibly through innovative polishing methods for improved 'porting', so airflow, so better stratified combustion – would give FIAT brands vehicle spec sheet competitive advantage. In the world of ICE powertrain, it is often not the original that commercially succeeds, but the hard to achieve and perfect (as the Japanese saw with VVT in the late 1980s). In this regard marriage of proven MultiAir and GDI combination, together with reliable and durable turbo-charging, should theoretically assist FPT on the global stage. Yet as stated honing the basic principles of petrol & diesel combustion is ultimately preferential to bolt-on sub-system improvement (ie fuel delivery & burned gas expulsion)
The extension of a small package, dual dry clutch technology for A & B segment vehicles is investment-auto-motives believes a welcome route forward, since although less relevant in its base form for mass use (applicable to only the higher power & torque performance variants ie Abarth), importantly offers the opportunity to create hybrid small cars via the attachment of an electric motor – something seen as a far more real-world practical solution that realistically city-bound small pure EVs.
FPT's goal is to raise the level of its contract manufacturing to 'non-captive' 3rd parties from 9% in 2009 to 24% in 2014, something almost achieved given that 95% of that has has already been contracted.
Like other European OEMs, FIAT wishes to develop diesel-hybrid engines that give better fuel-efficiency and off-road characteristics than the petro-electric systems developed by the Japanese and Americans, something much needed by Chrysler large car, large trucks and Jeep 4x4s. However whilst that could become a US advantage versus Ford and GM, FPT may struggle to create better small capacity diesel-hybrid units versus the likes of PSA, VW, BMW& Daimler given their innate knowledge of advanced diesels and sizable R&D capabilities. Since this technology is such a competitive advantage it would also look unlikely that FPT could contract manufacture for others unless it brought something to market far quicker or created an unrivalled technology lead. Instead expected as an Alliance type agreement, as has so often been the case with powertrain ventures.
Having installed much of its CapEx previously for MultiAir etc programmes, FPT has been enjoying an ongoing reduction until a low level plateau is reached in 2012-2014. 2010 should see near breakeven if projections materialise, yet as with FIAT Autos fragile EU sales position, that might be delayed into 2011 unless FPT can manage internal cost savings to off-set ant revenue shortfall; something almost expected by the investment community to raise the new Industrials' credibility. Thereafter breakeven a 2% annual improvement in trading margin is forecast, though no doubt predicated on achieving the set plan for obtaining non-captive clients.
The real challenge to FPT will be FGA's theoretical ability to buy in engines from elsewhere. Though not seen as a real threat, the HQ intent is to allow FGA to pressurise its internal sibling to better or meet benchmark contract rates which in turn improves its own competitiveness.
Producer of cast and machined steel and aluminium engine parts, typically cylinder heads, with FGA as the prime client. Steel foundries/facilities in France, Poland, Portugal, Mexico, Brazil & China. Aluminium facilities in Italy and Brazil.
The two key business pillars are to continue production efficiency gains (capacity utilization) and fulfil FIAT-Chrysler volume growth, with the Steel section aligning to stable EU capacity whilst growing in Mercosaur & China, and Aluminium directed at Mercosaur growth.
As part of FIAT Group's own need to reduce vehicle mass, Teksid's will be increasing its Aluminium business to its parent from 60% to 80% over the coming years, across all its international assembly operations. Steel products will grow as natural consequence of global TIV increase, with approximately 45% of capacity directed at FIAT.
The Chinese JV operation with SAIC has historically provided the best EBITDA at 20% of top-line revenue. A relatively cautious earnings forecast that maintains a flat revenue, loss-making 2009 & 2010, pulls the group back into the black by 2012 with E0.7bn revenue and 0.2% trading margin. Thereafter revenue and profitability is forecast to increase as a result of serving FIAT-Chrysler growth and the increase in the broader market. This income effect greatly assisted by the CapEx (exc R&D) vs Depreciation profile which past its peak has a steady downward trajectory till 2014.
The obvious concern for Teksid has less to do with its parental demand than that of the exposure of its external client-base to under-cutting in-situ and new entry competitors. Recognition of the threat this has no doubt been the impetus to maintain a near 50:50 production balance, and improve its higher-value aluminium business. As was always set to be the case (now illustrated by Jeff Immelt's comments on China even in high-end products) EM region joint venture agreements are inherently set to be agreed, exploited and eventually extinguished by the host country given as its own (often state backed) companies become more adept and so reduce partner reliance. This is especially so the case for low-value, relatively simple manufacture such as cylinder head casting and machining.
The fact that Teksid and Comau earnings projections were combined in the April presentation highlights the manner in which FIAT HQ sees their corollary in developing new technology solutions and accordant production methods & systems. Perhaps as never before has their been such an inter-dependence so as to move their operations up the production and assembly value-chain.
But once again, whilst there may inference from Comau's multi-industrial sector view, FIAT investors – especially in the new Industrial business to be floated – will want to be informed well beforehand as to what that industry servicing plan looks like.
The obvious expectation is Teksid's move into aluminium vehicle structures and possibly acquisition of a carbon-fibre structures specialist via Ferrari connections and so mimicing BMW's purchase of the carbon fibre parts supplier SGL.
The company supplies automated production equipment and support services for FIAT Group companies and external clients, its 21st century ambition to be a leading figure in delivering plant solutions to emerging economies. Its main presence given the dynamic of the past decade has been in Latin America supporting FIAT's factory in Brazil (2nd largest in the world) & Argentina. Mercosaur accounts for 2/3 of its workforce. Its broad customer base spans Autos, Trucks/Bus, AgCon, Rail, Aeronautical, New Energy, Petroleum and Steel sectors.
The company has witnessed a level of restructuring between 2006-9 but perhaps not as vicious as in other divisions given the buoyancy of Brazil and the multitude of customer types and so multiple sector aligned cost-centres. Yet it also has seemingly instilled a much needed discipline by which the company could be better centrally controlled, using standard operating procedures across each sub-division, improving training, a 'Make vs Buy' philosophy which both drives down costs and ensures quality betterment and improved cash management. Presumably using a zero-plus based budgeting approach instead of possible previous rolling budget allocations – a very necessary approach.
In truth the April presentation gave little useful information, let alone detailed information, regards the business development approach each sub-unit would follow to as a combined entity reach its 2014 revenue goal of E1.4bn from today's E1.1bn. Simply stating that Auto would remain largely stable, a 300% improvement in 'Applications' (ie resources and so income rewards) is the target for Non-Auto sectors, whilst 50% rise would be seen in Services. Equally revenues would be largely static in EU & NAFTA, with 25% growth in Mercosaur and 200% in China & India. FIAT Group reliance to drop from 29% to 22%.
Looking across its 2010-14 forecast, expecting to experience a break-even in Trading Margin in 2010 from 2009's -3.8% loss, it moves on to 1.2% in 2011, 1.6% in 2012, and doubles 2 years later.
With Autos effectively stable, AgCon vehicle build solutions essentially recycling conventional technology, the large worldwide infrastructure projects worldwide in Rail* ongoing yet toned down, high-cost New Energy projects exposed due to national subsidy cuts, Comau may well have to overtly lean on Aeronauticalll programmes such as Embraer's lower cost private jet order book and the slow rebound in Petroleum and Steel sectors as they appear, any cost saving enablers very welcome given the slow early phase profitability margins expected in those safe-harbour sectors.
[* NB Comau is expected to play a part in Luca Cordero di Montezemolo's ambition to create a private high-speed rail system in Italy].
As part of what should be FIAT Group's exploratory vanguard in advanced technology production systems and as a pathfinder instrument for technology transfer Comau appears to require better guidance and transparency if it is to play a seemingly necessary lead role in the new Industrials division.
Agricultural & Construction Equipment (CNH):
CNH manufactures and retails a broad spectrum of specialist AgCon machinery, typically includingg CombineHarvesterss, Large Tractors,Ancillaryy Crop items, aswell as Light & Heavy Earthmoving machines.
It proclaims to have enjoyed a smaller but more steady and sustainable business model compared to the 'boom & bust' of (what it sees as) its main rivals of America's Caterpillar and John Deere. [NB Though unlike CAT, John Deere maintained improved performance over CNH in 2009, at 5% RoS on x2 of its Operating Profit – Thus JD still the effective benchmark]
AG has been its primary springboard with its previous acquisition of competitors it sits as either a leading or Top 2 player in Europe, North America & Latin America, with a fall-off to 5th in RoW markets, big name players undermined by different agricultural regimes (smaller holdings) and the importance of either historical local manufacturers or lower-cost brands from Japan, Korea and China.
Global commodity prices undermined equipment acquisition as the momentous rise between 2006-2008 in crop and food stuff prices encouraged sales and procurement orders only to be cancelled by the sharp deflation as the western recession hit. The fiscal steady-state of the economy generated by very low broad inflation levels in the west and reducing inflation in EM regions sets the theoretical scene for a more stabalised agricultural economy as commodity prices – even if historically high - settle-out on longer-term trends.
Thus large Tractor and Combine sales in NA are expected to decrease across the next few years as new machine assets are deployed and typically constricted access to funding by western farmers necessitates the extended use of older machinery, which in turn boosts productivity margins. In Europe the situation looks 'flat', due to credit conditions and the retraction of state subsidies on bio-fuel cultivation.
In direct contrast the BRIC & other EM consumption demand for arable and live-stock ever increases, and so underpins the short-term and long-term pictures relevant to differing investment horizons for both FIAT/CMH itself and its group investment backers. This demonstrated by the promise of exploiting Brazil's Central Plateau and thus the E1bn AG & CE plant in Sorocaba, with a production capacity of 8k units per year machinery and the continent's largest parts fabrication/distribution base. The CIS offers the greatest immediate growth potential, yet also the greatest threat by historically entrenched local firms offering more antiquated (but crucially easily fixable) machinery. Here the story will be to convince operators to switch to CNH via easier credit availability and proven product support.
With regards the demand for Construction equipment, unsurprisingly the same proffered story of BRIC and EM demand pull, with the optimism of a recent rebound in NA housing starts diminished as purchase tax incentives are retracted. In Europe the construction industry continues to wain, especially in what were the fast developing regions of Spain, the CEE, with little or no off-set from the stagnant economies of Northern nations. Brazil remains a shining star as major infrastructure projects expect to come on stream, the slow state backed ideals probably over-taken by private enterprise (eg as in the case of the Acu Superport) in readyness to host the World Cup & Olympic Games.
Given the importance of Brazil within the EM good news story, what appears significant NPD development has been put in place across all Vehicle types and relative power/size segments so as to continue feeding from the Brazilian trough and keeping its dominant position.
Industrial and commercial JVs continue to flourish in Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, India, China & Japan; with and without equity cross-holdings depending on partner size and long-term intent, the most recent of which is an extend agreement with Kamaz (as previously mentioned).
Cost containment and reduction in group purchasing through 2008 and 2009 was highlighted by FIAT, a notionally expected result given the deflationary consequences from the financial crisis across much of the upstream supply chain between material extraction, processing and component manufacture. Given FIAT's ownership of Teksid, Magneti Marelli and Comau, group gains in this area were expected to be better than far less vertically integrated peers, and seemingly have been. Though investors would have presumed to see a far greater smoothing of the deflation curve to instill a sense of internal cost control and so easier modeling of management's forward budget. However it seems that FIAT were instead more avidly keen to show that substantial drop in input costs that perhaps present a better story than the one available for internal management accounting.
However, such cost savings are at risk of being lost as the FIAT workforce increases – up 3% in Q1 alone. Much is of course seems typically politically motivated (by the MoED), FIAT used as an employment and economic steadier, with Marchionne proclaiming he would like to see FIAT double its Italian production capacity, a tacit aspect of his negotiational stance for labour flexibility with the national unions. Yet there is once again the danger that jobs are being created for their own sake, instead of direct added-value to the company. This seems the case with the Q1 activity with 5,600 new positions allocated.
Whilst the continued vehicle demand pull of Latin American and FIAT's need to fight for regional market share compel job increases in a buoyant market – even if over-egged due to political pressures, conversely the 2,600 additions to 'Materials Handling' in Italy and Serbia beg the question about direct (monetary) value contribution; even if partially off-set by the loss of 1000 'near age' retirees. Indeed during a period of re-alignment – especially regards EU production – the addition of upstream jobs could seem almost perverse, especially given that no measures of firm economic up-tick are present that could ordinarily arguably call for the additional manning of upstream activities ahead of an expected strong down-stream demand.
The potential for FIAT-Chrysler synergies on technical and geographic grounds is obviously highly rewarding, especially if achieved on large project formats quickly and efficaciously. The scope has been identified and work under way evaluating and implementing cross-company advantage, the creation of a Chrysler small car product line, with Dodge use of LCVs and Iveco commercial vehicles central to its early success in North American.
Not since the Iaccoca turnaround of the early 1980s has so much been at stake for Chrysler's near, mid and long-term futures, so early delivery of the compact car formula (in the previous Neon vein)
should if taken into buyers hearts should provide the working capital and possibly more to fully execute the plan. The central concern is of course maintaining the sharp rise in market share Chrysler enjoyed as government funding allowed it to incentive sales of its aging and out-moded product range. A WSJ report showed a 300C with $2k cash-back, but bargained hard the dealers know they much offer far more on what are increasingly comparatively expensive product only devaluing on the forecourt.
Thus Chrysler's aim to to maintain its share by substituting 'give-away' larger vehicles with price stable compact cars which critically do not undermine Chrysler per unit margins with above industry (or even parallel industry) average warranty costs. Given the need to speedily re-engineer Lancia cars to NA regulations and specifications, that may be much to expect.
With regards to cashflow – as previously mentioned - FIAT Industrial division added a further E-0.3bn in debt over the Q1 2010 quarter, increased from E-4.418bn to E-4.707bn.
The company highlights the Car section's: a) positive cashflow from operations, b) efficient factory and dealer inventories levels, c) an acceleration in recovering scrappage scheme receivables (E448m outstanding at Q1end, fully recovered by end Q3), d) Capital Expenditure balanced with Depreciation & Amortisation.
However, there has been a E-248m reduction in Working Capital availability so although positive at E262m there appears a degradation in re-cyclable liquid funds. The exclusion of Vehicle Buy-Back costs in the D&A (and balance associated Capex) items generate opaqueness, since its latter-day inclusion would skew direct comparison of the figures, thus may now have been excluded to provide a greater perceived balance. This 'balancing act' would have impinged on Capital Expenditure allocation and spend, detail of which would have been useful to gauge any latter-day income slippage.
The scrappage scheme receivables schedule no doubt partly reflects the various scheme end-dates of different nation states, but there must also be consideration that FIAT may have re-structured its internal capture of these receivables to flatten/smooth-out the income curve across the first three quarters of 2010, so assisting positive income latterly when the income effect of scrappage would have nominally previously ceased.
The Net Industrial Cashflow position (including CapEx and the buoyancy of investment receipts) showed a E-335m position. Add the tailwind of a positive FX conversion effect and the E-0.3bn (actually E-289m) change in Industrial Net Debt to E4.7bn becomes apparent; this garnered from direct bank debt, as opposed to the higher cost of funding from capital markets, so also reducing Cash Maturity demands.
However the Financial Services section has a debt level almost 260% bigger, at E12.1bn, up E0.6bn since YE09.
The obvious task of the Consolidated Net debt of E16.8bn, up E0.9bn from YE09, is to cushion the Group through what are still tentative times regards liquidity availability and use.
Looking at the larger Gross Debt picture, in addition to the reduction in Cash Maturity levels, ABS/Securitization levels rose to attain lower cost funding as did the Sale of Receivables (ie Factoring) so as to ensure earlier though reduced level receipts. Gross Debt was reduced between YE09 and Q1 by E0.2bn, sitting at E28.3bn.
The greatest concern lies with the debt maturation timescale, since the largest sum of E5.0bn is payable by Q1 2011, E4.7b of which is due by end 2010. The following year sees a similar sum, only after which debt maturity levels soften considerably. Off-setting this is of-course Cash & Marketable Securities, and here it must be noted that E2.3bn of the E3.8bn Sale of Receivables valuation has been sold to divisional finance arms, so effectively recycling the debt through the conglomerate.
In the Q1 presentation FIAT SpA stated it planned to reach a Trading Profit > E1.1bn and cut debt down to above E5bn.
A year on from its Chapter 11 restructuring thanks to direct and indirect Washington support by way of equity stakes, debt reduction and artifical consumer incentives, Chrysler appears ever healthier. Recent Q409 to Q1 2010 measures in:
US & Canadian Market Share: up from 8.1% to 9.1% & 11.6% to 13.7%.
Net Revenues: up from $9,434m to $9,687m
'Modified EBITDA': 398m to 787m
The latter of which boosted income and operating profitability ratios (rated against % of Net Revenue). This in turn had a massive effect on the bottom line
Operating Profit/Loss: from $-297m to $143m
Net Loss: rising from Q4's $-6,291m to Q1's $-197m.
Cash (& Equivalents): from $5,877m to $7,367m
Liquidity: from $8,278 to $9,768m
This then seems an explicit accounting basis to demonstrate a first time positive operating profit for the benefit of both the capital markets and government. Yet realistically that was achieved due to the substantial effect of the 'Modified EBITDA' which appears to have eradicated a host of normally baked in items for company and sector comparison; including: Interest, Taxation, Depreciation and Amortisation elements, aswell as negating Employee Benefits costs, Restructuring costs, Accounting Principles gains & losses and other financial loss.
In the company's favour the liquidity cushion has grown to include: the aforementioned cash cushion at $7.4bn, plus the US Treasury loan at $1.7bn, plus a Canadian EDC loan at C$721m; totaling $9.8bn
As seems obvious, in reaction to the previous financial crisis, consumer retraction and subsequent capital markets contraction, FIAT saw the opportunity to necessarily re-shape the organisation so as to better benefit from the eventual economic upturn. Thus it presently resides in a transitional operational phase which whilst good for the mid and far term generates operational disruption that must be managed in as proficient a manner as possible; the interplay between product offering, production capacity and financial reporting all important.
Thus a diagnosis of short-term pain for the reward of long-term gain.
Managing expectations is precisely what the 2010-2014 Five Year Plan presented in April was intended to do, to show a gradual return to business profitability and sustainability. It is meant to instill confidence of FIAT's grasp of the big picture and its capability to manage its future.
Yet, for the near-term at least macro-economic headwinds continue and dominate, undermining what should have – and previously looked like – economic traction in the broader western market economy that should have provided for FIAT's (and others') first steps.
Headwinds include heavy reliance on the Italian car market which itself will suffer from the combined effects of retracted scrappage incentives and the consumer fall-out of governmental austerity measures. This similar to other southern EU member states such as Greece and Spain, but with the obvious consequences for a nationally economically engrained domestic car-maker (vis a vis the relative small impact of Spain's SEAT's impact on VW's bottom line).
Furthermore beyond the purely economic negative impact, it is expected that the low-level emotionally charged social fractiousness stirred by social upheaval (such as national labour reforms) could add to the retracted Italian consumption pain. The remaining private buyers 'consumption patterns' consciously & sub-consciously negating Italian goods in preference to better perceived substitute competitor vehicles – ie Renault/Dacia, (ironically) SEAT & Hyundai-Kia.
[NB Thus FIAT must tip-toe its way through the public flack with well conceived tactical PR and marketing campaigns, the content of which highlights both the need for change relative to the global context and yet illustrates the opportunity that lies ahead. (ie very much in the mould of Ford's 'Bold Moves' campaign a few years ago, as part of its managing its transitional identity].
FIAT views the EU market as shrinking by -15% across 2010 with most prominent falls in Germany and Italy, yet still believes it will maintain its current slice of market share, presumably thanks largely to the new Uno
Tailwinds that support FIAT SpA's near-term corporate valuation are few and far between at present and only really include the boost from FIAT's hold on Brazil's various vehicle markets: Cars, LCVs, HGVs and AgCon markets, these in turn supporting the in-house supply-base of Teksid, MagnetiMorelli and Comau. Brazil is recognised by FIAT and observers as its revenue crutch during this tight period.
As the FIAT car-parc across the EU ages so the company must seek to serve both its recent buyers of new cars and indeed serve non-affiliated used FIAT car buyers with service and product packages which can both achieve additional revenue streams and importantly retain their loyalty to the brand, so assisting latter-day new car purchase levels and buoying used car prices which have an inter-relate to new car residual pricing.
To off-set EU slow/stagnant demand conditions, exploring what can be done in the after-market arena for FIAT vehicles should be a topic that rises up the corporate agenda, especially as the cars often pass into the hands younger drivers across the EU. Thus replaying the decades long Italian experience of latter-owner vehicle modification would put FIAT in the driving seat in this sector, and allow it to grasp a portion of the income that both specialist and generic motorist outlets have grown in recent years especially across Italy, UK, Germany, Benelux and E.EU. Having re-introduced the Abarth brand it seems only natural to replay Carl Abarth's original raison d'etre with new market-relative bias toward the cosmetic alongside performance.
Keen to show that FIAT is much more than cars and LCVs, during these consumer constrained times it was no surprise when the announcement was made to split the conglomerate to gain both better management accountability and internal and investor transparency.
The near term will be no doubt tentative and internally fractious as the soft-culture in both management and labour camps that gave certain freedoms and enabled the possible massaging of divisional balance sheets (to suit the group) gives way to something far more exacting in cultural and accounting senses. The spirit of internal competitiveness hopefully generating something close to idealised 'co-opetition'.
This evolution is what all facets and members of the investment community must surely wish to see emerge, as it both monitors FIAT SpA value 'as is' today and closely follows activity to forecast the mid-term values of separately publicly listed (and so funded) Cars & Industrials entities.
Here in the UK, this weekend sees the social events calender offering both Goodwood's Festival of Speed, glorifying Italian motorsport achievement, and the Royal Henley Regatta. The events might well see either Elkann, Cordero di Montezemolo or Marchionne individually rubbing shoulders with other seniors in financial and industrial circles. If so, the innate irony of a certain yesteryear FIAT car would not be lost on them. 25 years ago the Rega*ta Weekend station wagon experienced very different receptions in North vs South America, so laying the market terrain until now.
Watching the 'Rowing Eights' from the river bank might remind them of the struggle for supremacy amongst 'Western Eight' auto players, and indeed others, for the 'mid-horizon' promise from the USA and RoW. More presciently, the blue bow-ties and blazers of the might convey subtle messages of the Ford and GM opposition. Retro-chic Boaters may be order of the day for the HRR crowd , but if subtle overtones are played out, a tube-transported roll-down Panama may be more suitable headgear given FIAT's need to deploy modern media, conjoin the Americas and channel FIAT's global trade.
For investors, the 2010 – 2014 presentation was indeed compelling and made acute sense for each business unit, the 2 new parent companies and for Exor.
Yet much like Henley's bankside view of a sculling race, the grand romantic picture only skims the surface of the necessary hard graft and exemplary execution.
The manner in which FIAT SpA deals with the short-term struggle will convey its longer term abilities...that is the real 'Italian Job'...
...and, as ever, a truly independent, London-based investment-auto-motives will continue to comment on FIAT SpA & FIAT-Chrysler progress as neccessary to keep the investment community informed.