Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003) Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003) case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003) case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Alberto Di Minin, Federico Frattini, Andrea Piccaluga. The Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003) (referred as “Innovation Fiat” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Organizational Development. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Leadership, Leadership development, Organizational structure, Product development, Technology.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003) Case Study

One of the key elements of Fiat's recent resurgence is the superiority of its clean, fuel-efficient engine technologies that were mostly developed during the 1990s by Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF), the Fiat Group company in charge of R&D and technology development. In the early 1990s, when the Italian carmaker was going through troubling times (along with many other players in the automotive industry), CEO Gian Carlo Michellone radically turned around CRF's organization and innovation strategy, adopting and mastering a strategic approach to innovation that resembles what would become known as the open innovation paradigm. This revolution allowed the Fiat Group to keep its "innovation engine" running, despite the heavy downturn of the industry. The CRF case demonstrates how open innovation can protect the firm's innovation capability from the risk of severe resource rationalizations during periods of crisis while proffering a starting point to replicate innovation capability once the downturn is over. The efforts to streamline the adoption of open innovation need to be targeted at several aspects of a firm's organization, i.e., the structures, organizational roles, the planning and control and performance management systems, corporate values, and individual competencies and attitudes. The role played by the senior executive leadership in promoting the successful implementation of open innovation is critical, especially during tough economic times.

Case Authors : Alberto Di Minin, Federico Frattini, Andrea Piccaluga

Topic : Organizational Development

Related Areas : Leadership, Leadership development, Organizational structure, Product development, Technology

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003) Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10004940) -10004940 - -
Year 1 3461511 -6543429 3461511 0.9434 3265576
Year 2 3959399 -2584030 7420910 0.89 3523851
Year 3 3958958 1374928 11379868 0.8396 3324017
Year 4 3233212 4608140 14613080 0.7921 2561007
TOTAL 14613080 12674452

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2669512

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Payback Period
2. Net Present Value
3. Profitability Index
4. Internal Rate of Return

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Innovation Fiat shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.
2. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Innovation Fiat have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003)

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Organizational Development Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Innovation Fiat often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Innovation Fiat needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10004940) -10004940 - -
Year 1 3461511 -6543429 3461511 0.8696 3010010
Year 2 3959399 -2584030 7420910 0.7561 2993874
Year 3 3958958 1374928 11379868 0.6575 2603079
Year 4 3233212 4608140 14613080 0.5718 1848599
TOTAL 10455563

The Net NPV after 4 years is 450623

(10455563 - 10004940 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10004940) -10004940 - -
Year 1 3461511 -6543429 3461511 0.8333 2884593
Year 2 3959399 -2584030 7420910 0.6944 2749583
Year 3 3958958 1374928 11379868 0.5787 2291064
Year 4 3233212 4608140 14613080 0.4823 1559226
TOTAL 9484465

The Net NPV after 4 years is -520475

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9484465 - 10004940 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Innovation Fiat to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Innovation Fiat has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Innovation Fiat can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Innovation Fiat, then the stock price of the Innovation Fiat should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Innovation Fiat should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

Alberto Di Minin, Federico Frattini, Andrea Piccaluga (2018), "Fiat: Open Innovation in a Downturn (1993-2003) Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.