Women behind Cars: Angelica Carapezza

At the presentation of the new Fiat Ducato earlier this summer we met up with some very remarkable people of Fiat Professional, who had brought the new Fiat Ducato project to a pinnacle in the world of commercial vehicles, and also made a splendid presentation of it.

Intrigued as we were with the electric version of this Ducato, a harbinger in the trend towards clean urban mobility also for commercial purposes and bringing goods to our inner cities in an environmentally responsible way, we also directed our attention to the people behind this project, Domenico Gostoli, Head of Fiat Professional Electrification Programs, and Angelica Carapezza, assisting her boss in managing and coordinating the implementation of such electrification programs.

Angelica Carapezza and Domenico Gostoli, the team behind the Ducato Electric project…

We were very intrigued by the way they both worked out and conceived this programme, only to discover when we spoke to Signora Carapezza that she had a long lived passion for automobiles and Fiat, and had participated in many important projects which had marked the history of the Fiat brand and group.

This discovery led us to start up a series where we present you the profiles of remarkable women who play an important role in our automotive world. We start off with an interview here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

HK: You have already built up quite a long career with Fiat, and were at the heart of quite a few important projects. Can you tell more about this?

AC: I started to work in FCA, more than 30 years ago; at that time it was just Fiat, a domestic company very far from the international giant that is today. 

I started in the Logistics dept, ensuring Spare Parts distribution in Europe, then I passed to Purchasing, where I had the chance to have a key operative role in the “world car project”. Working for the realization of this project that took me for 3 years to Morocco as responsible for purchasing local and nationalized components- , then I came back in Italy. After a short while I was flying again to a new country for another important challenge: Vietnam, as responsible of the Licensee market where a local partner used to assemble CKDs (Completely Knocked Down) parts and components of the world car first and the Doblò thereafter.

After 1 year of exciting experience in Far East Asia, it was time to come back again to the old continent and face a new role: International Business Development. It was the time of great deals among OEMs: General Motors, Suzuki, Ford, Peugeot/Citroen, and many other negotiations which remain in the secret drawers of FCA… this was a great chance for me to be part of the epochal change which the automotive world was making! Time passes and I thought why not capitalize on all this experience and put it to good use in the commercial world? I took the opportunity to join Fiat Professional, first as responsible of Brand Developments (one amongst all: China experience) and then I was focusing my time on electric developments. Always “out of the box”!

HK: You even put up a project in Hanoi, involving a press drive with the new Doblò, this was in July 2003…

 AC: Yes, when I was in Vietnam, I took the chance to expand my professional background: my original assignment was to negotiate, with a local partner, a new licence for local assembly of a Fiat model. It happened that, even under the strong request of the local assembler, my role took a 360° shape: I was requested to figure out and organize the commercial launch of the Doblò (at that time I had no experience in this context), the local Partner gave me full white paper, and that is how the “Trans-Vietnam Road Show” took place.

We organised a press conference and launch ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City first, and then we literally “brought” the launch to the capital, alongside the coast of the country from south to north: a caravan of 13 Doblò’s, driving for 8 days, 2.600km, passing from Nha Trang, Danang, Halog Bay, and finally Hanoi; in the capital I set up a new launch ceremony and was honoured by the presence of Italian Ambassador and Vietnamese Minister of Transports.

36 young Angelica Carapezza heading in 2003 the launch of the Doblo in the Opera Hotel in Hanoi…

I was the only Italian and the only person of Fiat to manage the group of Vietnamese people of the Road Show: my best and most exciting professional experience ever! 

HK: What led you to Fiat, was it the attraction of all the wide creative and professional possibilities which result from working for such a large group with a global reach?

Working in one of the biggest companies of the world has positive and negative sides. You can benefit from the size of the company itself, and collect strong and different experiences which, in a smaller context, would oblige you to change company.

This basically means that after more than 30 years, each day I wake up being conscious that – even today – I’ll learn something more about this extremely complicated world called “automotive”. On the other hand – I speak personally – you develop such an attachment to the Company, feeling as being  truly yours, which makes it impossible to betray it with another one.

I feel FCA as being my family, my personal growth, my house. I have such a sentimental attachment to the Company that it is inconceivable for me to look elsewhere, and this is indeed my emotional boundary.

Angelica Carapezza in 2003 in Hanoi posing with the Italian Amabassador and the Vietnamese Minister of transport…

HK: Coming to the present project, putting the electric Ducato on the rails so to say, can you tell us more about the “bottom up”, client-based approach, focusing  first on building up a database with a specific, detailed study of customers’ real use of their vehicles, which involved a year of data gathering. How do you work together as a team with Domenico Gostoli?

AC: Domenico Gostoli is the most professionally experienced boss I’ve ever had. Working with him means to collect day by day competences and knowledges, thanks also to its vision and background: he collected in his career important roles in engineering, product planning and commercial, which is a quite rare combination in our world, and this makes him really stand “one step ahead”.

For the Ducato Electric, we started to analyse the real life utilization of the vehicles in different usage situations and missions, being conscious that an LCV means much more for our customer than just being a vehicle: it is the source of daily business revenue.

We put the customer in the centre, with his specific daily needs (path, km’s, delivery times, payload and volume request, city centre access, etc) and we conceived a Ducato where the new Electric propulsion enhances the successful modularity of Ducato that made it the #1 among LCVs in Europe (more than 12.000 versions of the same model manufactured in the biggest LCV plant @ Atessa, south Italy!).

Our “bottom up approach” starts from real life usage, and brings a fully tailor made and customized recommendation to customer, with whom we choose the best vehicle configuration fitting his specific needs, which have been subject to a prior analysis.

Fiat Professional electrification does not penalize the payload and volume of the vehicle, takes away the “range fear” thanks to his battery modularity and lets our customers accomplish their daily mission also in Co2 free cities. All our analysis are fully consistent to the epochal change of people behaviours and daily needs: e-commerce means rising delivery speed and the need for our customers to deliver goods, mainly in urban centres.

HK: What would you say/advise to women who want to start a career in the automotive world?  

I would not make a statement between men and women: first of all there must be passion and a daily predisposition to put oneself under questioning, by seeing a new thing, a new role as an opportunity. Disruption is always an opportunity, especially when you face it blindly. 

On the other side there is this daily truth: women carry a heavier burden, if you are also a mother, this may turn into a problem for your career. It is a matter of choices and compromises, always. For a woman much more than for a man, even today.

Each of us has to develop her/his “tailored professional profile”, because each of us has her/his “daily mission”, exactly like a Ducato Electric.

We thank You for this interview.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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