Fiat shareholders were in a resigned mood Friday when they met to vote on the Italian carmaker’s merger with Chrysler Group.
"Today we are attending Fiat’s funeral," said Marco Bava, a notoriously combative shareholder, as he went to cast his vote at the extraordinary assembly. The majority of investors voted in favor of the plan.
Not only were the shareholders holding their last meeting in Fiat’s home town of Turin, they were also giving the automaker their consent to move its headquarters outside the country. After 115 years in this northwestern Italian city, Fiat was, in a way, abandoning it to look for a better future elsewhere.
"We are witnessing a death foretold, and maybe it's because of this that we are living a goodbye without tears," Marco Revelli, a sociologist, told la Repubblica newspaper.
The new company arising from the merger, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), will be incorporated under Dutch law, based in the UK and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Despite Fiat’s troubles over the years, Turin had always been proud of being the seat of Italy’s biggest manufacturer whose rise in the post-war era was intrinsically linked to the country’s own fortunes. The move abroad is the latest example of an industry turning away from national champions towards international conglomerates that are big enough to compete in today's global market.
No matter how many times Fiat’s executives reiterated their commitment to Turin and Italy, the outcome of the vote hurt even though most shareholders recognized there was no alternative. "I'm sad for historical reasons," said Roberto Verrone after casting his vote in favor. "All of this could have been done without having to move the headquarters away."