Editorial 29 November 2019
The merger of FCA and PSA stems from a long reflection on the future of the global car industry. Shipyards should go down a similar route to tackle the unknowns of tomorrow
THE MERGER OF FCA AND PSA WILL CREATE THE FOURTH BIGGEST GROUP IN THE GLOBAL AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR.«Discussions have opened a path to the creation of a new group with global scale and resources owned 50% by Groupe PSA shareholders and 50% by FCA shareholders», the press release issued by PSA and FCA explains, noting that the operation will create the fourth largest car manufacturer in the world, with 8.7 million vehicles sold annually.
We have discussed the automotive industry’s moves in the global market many times, and, in parallel, how the boating industry, and not just in Italy, is struggling to come up with a medium/long-term strategy. From east to west, all over the world, the modern era offers a varied panorama of cultures, traditions, and customs, but all with a highly commercial side linked to the use of goods and services.
Every day, the global market is becoming more like trench warfare, where competitors fight to give their product the edge. The complexity of the markets is a cause for reflection for every manufacturing sector and demands a clear strategy based on three key elements: creating a valid product, being an ethical company and having a revolutionary idea. Too often, ‘shady’ companies confuse the market, tarnishing the positive values possessed by the majority of operators. The Italian shipbuilding industry is currently number one in the world, but this leading position is fragile and must be defended with new industrial policies.
In our sector, you never hear rumours of partnerships, mergers or other types of collaboration between companies, let alone the designing of a new shared shipbuilding platform to lower research and development costs, or research into more efficient hulls for dinghies. The sector is made up of companies that don’t talk to one another for fear of losing their competitiveness. There is no need to add much more to the column inches already dedicated to being an ethical company.
It still puzzles me how easy it is to throw together a shipbuilding company, thanks to the non-existent entry barriers to the market. Not to mention the total lack of checks by the authorities, who don’t have the staff to ensure the minimum requirements are adhered to. Nor is there any political will to fight the illegal practices of those trying to cheat the system, or even public scorn towards those who, having caused a disaster, return and expect to be treated with the utmost respect.
There is no need to set the entry barriers in law; all that is needed is to take the quality of boats to such a level of complexity that it would be impossible to be competitive on the market without adequate financial and intellectual resources. The size of Italian companies does not currently allow sufficient investment to create something truly revolutionary. Things progress one step at a time, tinkering around the edges.
For this reason, when I see FCA and PSA merging to tackle the challenges posed by the future, I feel admire of the sector that has influenced every industrial policy introduced over the last 100 years. I would like Italian shipyards to be a model of the utmost excellence, and they have the capacity to do just that. From the designers and the shipyards to universities, research centres and the makers of the various components, all parts of the system could produce even more extraordinary results if they were given help to work on shared products.
My plea is therefore that we reflect deeply on the reasons for the merger of FCA and PSA and the effect it will have on the global automotive industry.
(The boating of tomorrow – Barchemagazine.com – December 2019)