The three pillars of business
The history of the group began in 1891 when Ercole Marelli founded a company of the same name in Milan to produce motors and electrical appliances. Magneti Marelli was founded in 1919 with capital half Fiat and half Ercole Marelli. The company remains a technological leader and a crucial supplier to the Fiat Group. Even if over time it has increasingly diversified its clientele. In the 2000s, it achieved strong growth in its sales volume, which reached $8 billion in 2017. The three pillars of business: Lighting, that is, everything related to vehicle lighting; Electronics and digital (speed indicator, rpm, display); Engine components, both electrical and endothermic. Then there are suspension systems, exhaust systems, motorsport… Already in 2015, before the sale, Marelli generated more than 50% of its revenue thanks to non-FCA orders. This is Marelli in October 2018, the year in which the FCA group was sold for 6.2 billion euros to Calsonic Kansei, controlled since 2017 by the US fund KKR. A sale was reached after an initial attempt, and then failure, to reach an agreement with Samsung. And a hidden interest on the part of the Italian company Brembo, at least for part of the group.
Today the company has 7,300 employees in Italy (out of 50,000 worldwide) compared to just under 10,000 in 2015. There have been restructurings, but to portray Marelli as a company displaced by the transformation of the automotive sector would be wrong. . Francesco Zirpoli, scientific director of the CAMI Center for Automotive Innovation and Mobility at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, is convinced of this. “Marelli remains a supplier of very advanced technology today. In any case, the internal combustion engine is not dead, as from 2035, it will no longer be sold in Europe, but in many other parts of the world. The danger is that this story of transformation becomes an excuse. There is another problem: the center of gravity of production at the regional level is moving towards China, and in Europe towards Spain and the eastern countries, as well as Germany, of course. “Italy is doing little or nothing to stay central.”
“KKR could consider the automobile sector as a sector in decline and wants to move into telecommunications. This is the logic of funds. The fact remains that losing the skills and know-how of a component manufacturer like Marelli in Italy means another step away from the automotive sector. “It would be a blow to the component supply chain,” says Patrizio Bianchi, a former education minister who is also an expert on industrial policy. “An agreement with Stellantis to produce one million cars would certainly be a positive thing But this may not be enough: in order not to dismantle supply chains, our component manufacturers need more customers, and we need to attract investments,” adds Zirpoli. Which investments? A former Marelli director has the answer, but prefers not to go public. “When you want to protect a specific sector, you should not ask for guarantees on factories, but on research centers where new products are developed. Factories come accordingly.”
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