Blog: Chris WrightPomigliano new benchmark for Fiat in Italy?

Chris Wright | 16 December 2011

Driving from the centre of Naples to Fiat's Pomigliano factory takes you past some shanty towns that you would only expect onto to see in a third world country.

It's at odds with what Fiat has done to kick-start its struggling plant with an investment of EUR100m (US$130m) that has transformed it into what is now a benchmark for all Fiat and Chrysler's manufacturing sites in Europe, North America and Asia.

Since 2008, the plant has been completely re-structured, closing briefly for a few months when production of the Alfa 159 finished there.

The 7,000 operators have been re-trained and now proudly wear their new uniforms which are as spotless as the factory floor itself. It has not all been plain sailing, a year ago unions locked horns with Fiat concerning what they described as ‘draconian' changes to working practices.

That would appear to be behind them. Pomigliano has to work this time because there will be no more EUR100m investments coming its way.

Fiat manufacturing chief Stefan Ketter said: "Some people ask why did we bother with Pomigliano, it has no future. Well, this is the future for Fiat manufacturing. It's an investment in the people as well as the plant, based on personal responsibility and respect for the rules."

Such is the importance to Fiat of the Pomligliano plant and the all-new Panda which will be built there was that the big man himself, Sergio Marchionne, turned out. A rare sighting on a press launch.

His speech and answers during the Q+A were sharp, cutting even as he aimed swipes at other carmakers concerning their failure to tackle the issue of overcapacity in Europe, and Italian politicians for their failure to tackle Italy's economic woes.

But his best line came as he barely completed his first sentence. A technician rushed up to adjust the microphone placed at the top of Marchionne's woollen jumper.

"That's the first time I've ever let a guy get his hands around my throat," he quipped.


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