Early years 2000 was a busy period at Alfa Romeo's Centro Stile, its in-house design department. Not so much for the work load which was normal but because of many organizational changes which involved the entire Fiat Auto group, or, should we say Fiat-General Motors after the March 2000 alliance. Those mergers are always made in the name of efficiency and efficiency means cost-reductions achieved by synergies.
Photo Courtesy of Italdesign and Stellantis Archives
Synergy means reduction of the number of project and production related activities to the absolute minimum. In this way the development and production costs can, at least in theory, be spread over much larger number of the final products. The Marques, with all their peculiar characteristics acquired in time become mere Brands. There is no more any intrinsic character left in each brand cars as they all share the same components with others within the Group.
There is only one “platform” for each size or market category. Same with engines, transmission, brakes, suspension, HVAC and all the components. The only “brand-characterization” is possible through styling and fine-tuning of shared components.
The old, historical Italian brands like Lancia and Alfa Romeo have already went through this process when they were “absorbed” by Fiat in 1969 and 1986 respectively. At the time it seemed big and drastic changes and limitations because both makes had their own, established methods of working and their products had clear and distinctive characteristics. But at least in those years all the players were from the same northern Italy industrial area, with similar if not the same history and culture. There were differences but at least everybody knew each other pretty well.
This time we were talking about merging not only with many car makes, all with their history and characteristics but also with different nationalities from different continents... That means not only different working methods but different cultures, different languages, even different time zones.
At our Centro Stile all the current projects in different state of advancement had been suspended and radically reconsidered in view of the new realities. The old, well known synergies assumed a whole new meaning, we no longer had to share platforms and components with Fiat and Lancia but with a number of totally new brands like Opel, Vauxhall, Saab in Europe as well as Holden in Australia and, obviously, all the American brands of GM.