La Torino elegante e perbene di Marchionne

Il Wall Street Journal racconta la Torino di Marchionne e dell’accordo Fiat-Chrysler

The holidays in Turin have certain rituals that set the city apart from others in Italy. That’s because Turin is home to the country’s largest manufacturing company, the multinational auto maker Fiat SpA, and like all big companies, Fiat is a sort of state within a state.

Besides traditional winter festivities, such as buying orange-colored boxes of handmade hazelnut chocolates at Gobino and stopping for a cup of hot chocolate mixed with coffee and cream at Café al Bicerin to fight off the Alpine cold, Turin offers parallel Fiat activities.

In this photo from 1955, Fiat 600s are driven on the roof track of the Lingotto factory in Turin. Like the car maker that calls it home, Turin, more than any other Italian city, mixes old with new, tradition with innovation.

Fiat auto workers’ kids receive gifts at the company’s annual Christmas party as the car maker’s sprawling Mirafiori factory shuts for the break. Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne delivers his annual speech to hundreds of managers gathered at the Lingotto—a former factory modeled on the Ford plant in Detroit where the Model T was born—that now houses Fiat’s executive offices.

This year, 2,000 Fiat managers either attended the speech or watched by video link from 300 sites including Brazil, Poland, and—for the first time—from Detroit. In one of the most startling deals to come out of the financial crisis in 2009, Fiat took a stake in Chrysler in a partnership backed by the U.S. government.

Underlining the links between Turin and Detroit, Mr. Marchionne arrived at the Fiat event this year in a Chrysler 300.

His speech was upbeat. But the jury’s still out on the future of both companies; 2010 is arguably a make-or-break year for Chrysler, and if the U.S. auto maker stumbles badly, so will Fiat. If it succeeds, the company could become a world leader. Fiat’s alliance with Chrysler has made Turin the headquarters of a global auto experiment—a move that makes locals both proud and extremely anxious.