LUCA CIFERRI

Marchionne follows the money

Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.
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Why is Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne today presenting his latest business plan for the Italian automaker at Chrysler's U.S. headquarters near Detroit, and not at Fiat's base in Turin? The answer: He's following the money.

Detroit is much closer to the world's financial capital, New York's Wall Street, than Turin. Marchionne plans to list the newly combined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in New York by year-end, a move aimed mainly at reducing the huge interest costs that have held back product launches for the past five years.

Last year Fiat -- including Chrysler, Ferrari, Maserati and the group's components businesses -- spent 1.96 billion euros ($2.73 billion) in interest servicing 26.8 billion euros in gross industrial debt. This amount could have funded the launch of four new vehicles at product-starved Fiat.

Marchionne has said that Fiat's listing on the Italian stock market means the company's borrowing costs are higher than they would be in New York.

Transforming Fiat Chrysler into a fully international company could mean lowering borrowing costs by at least 2 percentage points to below 5 percent from the 6.8 percent paid by Fiat last year. Saving 2 percentage points would free up almost $700 million a year, equivalent to adding a new model annually without affecting the bottom line.

Also, with a Wall Street listing, Fiat Chrysler's financials would be reported in U.S. dollars rather than euros. The difference? A 150 billion euro revenue target for 2018 will turn into a more appealing $200 billion.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this had a typographical error on the U.S. dollar translation Fiat Chrysler's annual interest expense. The corrected figure is $2.73 billion.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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