I never owned a Chrysler product.
Yes friends, that skinny young guy in that photo is me, back when I owned my first car, a Fiat 600.
And the pose - things hanging off the car, hood (rear) and trunk lid (front, like an elephant) open, me with a tool in my hand (OK, a hammer) pretty much sums up my experience with that car.
Fix It Again, Tony.
I could tell the temperature with that car. The starter had exactly seven cranks in it.
RANH - RANH - ranh - ranh - rah - ra - rrr...
If it hadn't started by then, it was below freezing.
It had suicide doors - rear-hinged, for easier access. Worked fine as long as you didn't try to open them when you were moving.
And all of twenty-two horsepower.
Still, I loved that thing.
If nothing else, it wasn't a Volkswagen Beetle, which was what everyone else I knew drove at that time.
Imagine - me wanting to stand out from the crowd.
It was the first of three Fiats I owned in my early years. They always were entertaining cars to drive, if not especially suited to our climate.
Fiat left the North American market decades ago, and despite a few feints in this direction now and then, has never felt the need to try to return.
They do own Ferrari and Maserati, both of which have strong presences here.
There have been so far unfulfilled promises of a return of the Alfa Romeo marque, another of Fiat's storied brands, especially when General Motors owned a chunk of Fiat a few years ago.
It cost GM some two billion-with-a-b to get out of that deal. At least in part, that cash allowed Sergio Marchionne, by some measures a Torontonian, to re-build Fiat into a major force among European car manufacturers.
Like every car maker though, Fiat is still searching for long-term viability. Looking for economies of scale, ways to spread the massive investment to develop a new car over larger sales volumes, the company has engaged in various joint ventures with such as Ford (Ford Ka and new Fiat 500) and Suzuki (Suzuki SX4 and Fiat Sedici).
The proposed alliance with Chrysler would give the company access to a massive dealer network in the US and Canada - probably the asset Chrysler has that would be most valuable to another car company, especially one that does not play here yet (the various Chinese manufacturers must be eyeing that network too).
In return, Chrysler would gain access to some of the most efficient car manufacturing technology in the world, and also to some stunning design and engineering talent, especially in small cars (a) which are expected to become ever more important in our markets, and (b) where Chrysler's expertise level currently sits at approximately zero.
A marriage made in heaven?
Maybe not. Some analysts feel Fiat itself is too weak to survive, never mind Chrysler, and that merging two small weak companies always results in one larger weaker company.
I say, nothing "jointly" ventured, nothing "jointly" gained.
And with the two top dudes at Chrysler named Nardelli and Lasorda, Fiat seems like a perfect fit.