As the automotive world continues its paradigm shift towards electric power and autonomous driving, more legacy automakers are forming alliances to prepare for the large investment of money and technology necessary for survival. Like many businesses over time, mergers and attrition weed out the smaller concerns leaving a few, or even one, to fulfill the needs of the consumer. And so it is with Chrysler cars.
The automaker that carries the surname of Walter Chrysler was created from the remains of Maxwell Motor Co. in 1925. Throughout the years, Chrysler has formed or accumulated brands like Dodge and the now defunct Plymouth, Desoto and Fargo trucks.
In 1985, they were part of a joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors of Japan called Diamond-Star Motors for a few years. Chrysler acquired American Motors Corp. in 1987, bringing the Jeep brand under their corporate umbrella.
In 1998, Daimler-Benz, parent of Mercedes, merged with Chrysler to become DaimlerChrysler, but the partnership didn’t last, and in 2007, the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management bought Chrysler and restored its name.
About a decade ago, Chrysler, like all automakers, was feeling the pinch of the economy and needed help financially, when it was ultimately bought out by Fiat in 2014 to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Today, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA is comprised of Italian automaker Fiat including Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Maserati, as well as U.S. auto manufacturer Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Mopar product support, but that has effectively changed. As of January 2021, FCA and French carmaker Groupe PSA, consisting of Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall, have joined forces. The new venture will be known as Stellantis N.V.
Stellantis seems like a strange name for a worldwide automaker, kind of like the name of a song that doesn’t actually have the word in the lyrics, but it’s actually derived from the Latin verb “stello,” meaning “to brighten with stars,” which is supposed to symbolize some sort of positive energy and stellar illumination, and it seems to tie in historically to Chrysler’s pentastar logo, though I’m not sure that was intentional.
ot sure that was intentional.
The new merger will be based in Amsterdam, hence the N.V. which is a Dutch acronym for Naamloze Vennootschap, loosely meaning the same as “Inc.” after the name of an American business.
Many of the 14 brands under the Stellantis roof might seem familiar to U.S. consumers. While we’re all familiar with the Chrysler products and since the merger of FCA have been reintroduced to Fiat, those of an older generation might recognize some other names, long since departed from American soil, like Peugeot, Citroen, Lancia and Opel — once a GM brand sold through Buick dealerships. They may not all be coming back to the U.S. market but with clever badge engineering and shared design work the American auto consumer might benefit from the variety of platforms.
This isn’t the first time Chrysler and PSA has had dealings. In 1978, as Chrysler was struggling to find its way in a gasoline conscious America and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy that would see Lee Iaccoca turn the company around with a federal government loan, they shed their European operations to PSA for one dollar plus outstanding debt. At that time Chrysler Europe consisted of only a couple brands including Simca of France and the remains of the British Rootes Group (Sunbeam and Hillman). Despite the $1 fire sale price, it turned out to be a better deal for Chrysler as PSA lost money for the following half-decade.
The recent merger of FCA and PSA positions Stellantis as the world’s fourth-largest auto manufacturer by volume behind No. 1 Volkswagen, followed by Toyota and Renault-Nissan. Ford and General Motors take up the rear at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. Although the alliance between FCA and PSA is a 50-50 split, it’s accepted that PSA is the dominant player with a majority of board members, and PSA CEO Carlos Tavares is leading the newly formed organization now valued at $38 billion.
Tavares believes in the Darwinian mindset that only the strongest automakers will survive the transition to autonomous and electric vehicles and Chrysler is now in the best position, as part of Stellantis, to test that theory.
Eric and Michelle Meltzer own and operate Fryeburg Motors, a licensed, full-service automotive sales and service facility at 299 Main St. in Fryeburg, Maine. More than a business, cars are a passion, and they appreciate anything that drives, rides, floats or flies.