From Mr Steven Wood.
Sir, I respectfully and strenuously disagree with many of John Gapper’s opinions expressed in his article “Fiat’s lone poker player needs to find another deal” (Comment, January 9).
Mr Gapper is perpetuating the self-reinforcing cycle of negative opinions surrounding Fiat, created in part by biased German and British sell-side coverage. This sentiment has helped depress Fiat’s valuation, which has allowed it to be one of the best investments we have ever found.
Despite Mr Gapper’s allegations, were he to have actually talked to employees of either Fiat or Chrysler, he would have realised his accusations could not be more opposite than the truth. Walk around Chrysler’s headquarters and its employees are visually fired up – finally they have a management that has given the organisation a new sense of purpose and competitiveness.
Every major product launch under Sergio Marchionne’s leadership has helped Chrysler to continue to take market share, and the company’s products such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and new 200 are being compared to the offerings of luxury foreign brands. Since the launch of the Cherokee in November, Chrysler has been taking the most market share in the US of any carmaker.
In our discussions with multiple Fiat employees, they convey there is a permeating sense of gratitude for Mr Marchionne’s leadership, which has kept the company alive and will see it thrive in the coming years, if not already.
Indeed, had Mr Marchionne not arrived at Fiat in 2004 and Chrysler in 2009, it is highly likely that more than 200,000 employees would have lost their jobs.
We ask Mr Gapper, would an autocrat that shuns team-building actually locate his desk on the engineering floor and eschew the top-floor executive offices?
Furthermore, Fiat’s market share losses in Europe are not due to a lack of product, but are due to Italy’s declining share of the entire European market. The Fiat brand has been gaining share in most other major markets in Europe in 2013, and is poised to build on this in 2014 with the introduction of the 500X.
Additionally, Fiat-Chrysler is outspending Ford on an absolute basis, and far outspending General Motors as a percentage of sales.
We welcome the misunderstood, high-profile opinions of the company. Mr Marchionne will continue to defy them and, as shareholders, we will continue to enjoy healthy returns.
Shareholders under Mr Marchionne have already enjoyed double the return that Mr Gapper’s beloved Alan Mulally has produced at Ford during his tenure. Mr Gapper may want to recheck his opinions, and then he may want to buy some shares of Fiat’s stock.
Steven Wood, GreenWood Investors, New York, NY, US