Farmer Iron

Move on Auto Industry to Impact Ag?

Industry watches as Fiat makes auto moves, but remember they were in ag equipment first.

The world is watching as U.S. automakers dissolve - or at least two of them. One into bankruptcy last week as Chrysler sought Chapter 11 protection; and General Motors could be headed down the same road. Interestingly, a key name popped up in both stories - Fiat.

The giant Italian conglomerate once sold cars in the United States in the past but abandoned the market in the 1980s. Does anyone remember the Fiat Strada? My Dad had one (he was into interesting cars - no Yugo, but a Strada) and it was a nice little car but it was too little, too late at the time. So Fiat - along with Peugeot the French car maker - left the U.S. market.

Now Fiat is making a play for Chrysler in the U.S. and will get a chunk of the business that could make a record-breaking run through bankruptcy court if management meets its 30- to 60-day timeframe. Fiat is also looking at pieces of GM in Europe including Opel and Vauxhall (no word on Saab yet).

And, interestingly, Fiat is returning with new technology that could give Chrysler a leg up in the efficient car market. But farmers shouldn't be surprised. Fiat has owned two legacy brands in the United States for some time as corporate owner of CNH.

New Holland and Case IH tractors, along with Iveco Trucks, are all Fiat brands on the global market. And the Red and Blue tractor brands have retained their competitive nature in agriculture over the past decade.

There was a rumor that Fiat would have to sell CNH to finance its return to the U.S. car market; a claim the company has denied. Farmers know that Fiat has been investing in new technology and making market moves and alliances (such as the one with Trimble) to avoid re-inventing the tech wheel to compete.

As Fiat/Chrysler becomes a reality, farmers can watch how that unfolds from the comfort of their Magnum or TJ cab. It's truly a global manufacturing market these days.

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