Fiat Deal With Bertone Could Benefit Chrysler

Fiat’s acquisition of historic car styling/coach-building Italian company Bertone this week fits in with an ongoing discussion at the automaker about whether to keep the Chrysler brand going.

Fiat is the controlling stake-holder in Chrysler following the automaker’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is also the CEO of Chrysler LLC.

During Fiat’s due-diligence in making the overture to takeover Chrysler, there was a definite bias on the part of the Italians, say sources familiar with the process, to phase out Chrysler and concentrate the U.S. operation on Dodge, Jeep and eventually Fiat. Now, say sources, the continuation of Chrysler as a brand is still an open question.

Bertone now is expected to take part in the development and styling of some of Chrysler’s models, including ideas about future Chrysler brand models.

Bertone is noted for production of models such as the Fiat’s X1/9, Alfa Romeo Giulietta and 850 Spider.

For some, the Bertone involvement with Chrysler design—indeed Fiat’s 20% ownership of Chrysler—conjures up a far less successful Chrysler partnership with the Italians. Back in 1984, Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca cut a deal with Maserati to build an Italianesque version of a Chrysler K-car, called Chrysler TC “By Maserati.”

Only 7,300 TCs had been made (by hand in Milan, Italy) when the program was cancelled in 1991.

The 1989 TC used, based on the Dodge Daytona, was powered by a turbocharged 2.2 litre inline four cylinder engine. It was later replaced by a Mitsubishi-sourced 3.0 L V6 engine for the 1990 and 1991 model years. The manual version came with a Getrag manual transmission and 16-valve Cosworth head version of the 2.2 liter. It was quite a global car for the times.

The TC featured a detachable hard top with opera windows and a manually operated cloth convertible top, which came in both tan and black.

Unfortunately, the car had so many delays and so many mechanical problems that it was, early on, deemed a bust. Chrysler was discounting prices nearly $15,000 toward the end to get rid of them. Needless to say, there are much higher hopes for Fiat’s stewardship of Chrysler, as well as Bertone’s influence in future designs.

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