Fears that Chrysler would be "Italianized" when Fiat took control of the U.S. automaker once seemed reasonable.
Three years later, a thriving Chrysler is propping up an ailing Fiat and some outraged Italians complain about the "Americanization" of Fiat.
The 22 executives that run Fiat-Chrysler as a single entity on a global basis usually hold their monthly meeting at Chrysler's base in Auburn Hills, near Detroit, and only rarely in Fiat's home city of Turin. In Auburn Hills, Italian is forbidden even between Italians. The official language of the company's Group Executive Council is English.
The shift of balance between the doctor and the patient has been so massive than many now expect the United States to become the home of the merged Fiat-Chrysler.
Turin, for 133 years the capital of the Fiat empire, soon could be reduced to a regional headquarters that covers Europe, Africa and the Middle East, despite Fiat owning 58.5 percent of Chrysler.
What's driving the power shift? Money. Fiat has been unable to make any profit in a recession-hit Europe, which has left it severely weakened.
In the first quarter, North America -- which is all Chrysler with the exception of some Fiat 500 production in Mexico -- generated 670 million euros toward Fiat's total consolidated trading profit of 866 million euros.
Europe, which is Fiat plus a small number of Chrysler imports from Canada, the United States and Mexico, posted a 207 million euro trading loss in the quarter.
The company also made money in Latin America (235 million euros) and Asia-Pacific (77 million euros). Trading profit/loss is operating profit/loss before unusual items.
When it comes to net profit, Chrysler Group made 652 million euros and Fiat lost 273 million euros.
Without Chrysler, Fiat would have finished the first quarter with a big loss rather than a 379 million euro consolidated net profit.
Chrysler's transformation into Fiat's financial savior has happened because of internal and external reasons. Internally, Chrysler completed the first part of an ambitious relaunch program ahead of schedule.
The keys to the program included making Jeep the leading brand in the international expansion of Chrysler Group and becoming the first volume automaker to offer a fuel-saving eight-speed automatic transmission in North America.
Fiat announced a five-year plan in April 2010 and still has a lot of work to do to reach lofty targets such as relaunching its ailing Alfa Romeo brand in North America and expanding the company's overall presence in China, India and Russia.
In addition, Europe's long-awaited recovery was supposed to begin this year. That won't happen, which means Europe's new-car sales will decline for a fifth-consecutive year. Putting even more pressure on Fiat is that new-car sales in Italy are forecast to reach a 33-year low of 1.37 million, which would 22 percent below 2011.
In United States, the new-car sales volumes -- and more importantly, margins -- have recovered faster than expected from big declines in 2008 and 2009. Better sales and margins from Chrysler, which is the third-largest U.S. automaker, result in big financial gains for Fiat.