Thursday will bring another round of discussions between senior GM and Fiat officials, though it is not clear if the Italian company’s new Chairman, family heir Umberto Agnelli, will join in. He is scheduled to be attending the annual auto show in Geneva, where the talks will take place. Things are becoming more intense for both sides. It is just about a year from when Fiat could theoretically exercise its put option, forcing a takeover by GM. But despite promises of an imminent turnaround, the financial picture for the Italian firm goes from bleak to bleaker. With Standard & Poor’s and Fitch joining fellow debt rating agency Moody in downgrading Fiat, the company’s debt is trading somewhere between non-investment and junk bond grade. It has been reported Fiat would like help from GM as it attempts to recapitalize. But so far, the U.S. company is resisting.
Maserati Follows Ferrari’s Lead For ‘Gentlemen
2003 Maserati TrofeoEnlarge Photo
The formula has worked well for Ferrari, and this year Maserati owners will be getting the same treatment. The firm is building a special lightweight version of its road-going Cambiocorsa model that has been equipped with racing safety devices and will be called the Trofeo (Trophy). Twenty-six of the cars have been built so far, and buyers will have the opportunity to race them in a series of six races that will take place at major international race meetings including two Formula 1 Grand Prix events, at Silverstone in Britain and Monza in Italy.
The races will be of one hour’s duration, making them mini endurance races. This gives a clue to the future plans for Ferrari’s sister marque. While the world champions concentrate on F1, Maserati’s future role will be to carry the Italian flag in long-distance races like the classic Le Mans 24-hours.
Europe Takes The Top Down
2004 Renault Megane CabrioletEnlarge Photo
Citroen showed its convertible last year, and deliveries are starting now. It’s called the Pluriel, and it offers a variety of options for open-topped motoring, all the way from a roll-back roof similar to that of the legendary Citroen 2CV to lift-off side supports that make the car into a completely topless four-seater. Unfortunately, there’s no way to put the roof up if it rains while you are in full open mode because the roof supprts have to be left behind in the garage; but who cares if you are driving your Pluriel round St Tropez?