Surviving the Fall of a King: The Regional Institutional Implications of Crisis at Fiat Auto


This article discusses developments in the famously automotive‐centered productive system in Turin and the surrounding Piedmont region in the wake of major crisis at Fiat Auto. This large, articulated and internationally competitive productive system emerged from interactions between Fiat, its suppliers and other regional actors, but has always had Fiat at its center in a directive role, as the sole actor with both the interest and the ability to provide key collective goods. The automaker is today dramatically weakened, leaving the Piedmont region with an essential and unanswered question: what will happen to the networks of relationships and diversity of productive services if Fiat Auto does — as seems likely — cease to play its historic ‘monarchical’ role? To answer this question, we draw on literatures in comparative political economy, economic sociology and institutionalist economic geography concerned with path dependency and the decentralized coordination of production to trace the territorially embedded development of the Piedmontese automotive components industry as it has been constructed through Fiat’s contradictory interaction with the productive hinterland. In so doing, we identify possible futures for the region and discuss the feasibility of constructing new associational coordinating institutions.