Expanding the lexicon of cars

Perhaps not everybody will consider this newsworthy, but please bear with us, because a whole new automotive company is about to come into existence. The Detroit Free Press reported this week that the coming merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA – officially, the second entity here is known as Peugeot S.A. – is going to bring a new name to the landscape of automotive manufacturing. When the 50-50 merger becomes official early next year, the new company will be known as STELLANTIS, all in upper case as per preferred FCA practice. As the principals describe it, it’s a take on the Latin phraseology meaning “to brighten with stars.” The new corporation will have a very broad footprint: FCA’s automotive nameplates encompass Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, and Ram, formerly Dodge Trucks. Groupe PSA comes to the party packing Peugeot and Citroen, along with former General Motors holdings Opel and Vauxhall, plus the premium Citroen sub-brand DS and Peugeot motorcycles. FCA had been looking for a global partner since before its colorful honcho, Sergio Marchionne, died two years ago. A proposed alliance with Renault fell through, not long after FCA moved to invest $4.5 billion in upgrading its Michigan manufacturing locations. The deal between FCA and Groupe PSA is estimated to be worth $50 billion.

Kindly allow for a little editorializing here. From its inception, this online discussion has closely tracked the ongoing changes in the world of personal mobility as they involve technology, new markets, and the partnerships that are going to make those changes real in a world that’s transforming itself at a dizzying pace. It’s important to note that STELLANTIS will refer to the corporation only; the marque names in its combined portfolio will remain unchanged. Which means that at least for now, there will still be vehicles branded Chrysler and Dodge, which take their names from the founders of what became Chrysler Corporation in 1924. Yes, that was nearly 100 years ago, and both Chrysler and Dodge have recently been rendered down into niche nameplates offering American-style luxury and outrageous performance, respectively. It’s undeniably a little bit sad, though, that “Chrysler,” the name, which recalls the entrepreneurial giant who founded the company, will no longer exist in the American corporate pantheon. Read the papers, watch TV, or go online. A lot of things aren’t the way they used to be anymore, and that’s often a very good reality. But Walter P. Chrysler, and people like him who built the business of selling cars, transforming millions of people’s lives in the process, were giants who former transformed both industry and society. We shouldn’t fear change, but we definitely ought to venerate the mileposts of its passage, and the people who made that journey possible. So I’ll respond to this development by channeling my inner Edith Bunker and paraphrasing, “Mister, we could use a man like Walter P. Chrysler again.”

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