Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne seems to have tossed something of a hand grenade into the already combustible world that is Italy’s relationship with Fiat.

Nothing quite stirs the blood of Italy (apart from perhaps Ferrari) more it seems than discussion of its largest automaker – that also happens to be the biggest private sector employer in the country.

Marchionne – a man not unused to courting controversy – appears to have raised the possibility of Fiat moving its HQ to the US following any merger with Chrysler – a suggestion that has provoked howls of outrage from a swath of Italian interests – not the least of which comes from the automaker’s unions.

The issue has so alarmed Italian politicians that a gaggle of the country’s top heavyweights – including prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – has summoned Marchionne to a meeting this Saturday to clarify the situation.

But is Marchionne being his usual wily self in kite-flying a suggestion he knows will play very badly back home? If he subsequently amends or backs down on any possible move across the Atlantic, cue huge sighs of relief in Turin as one of Italy’s most powerful icons remains on home soil.

The gathering of such an elite this weekend even appears to have – briefly – united two of Fiat’s unions who have certainly not seen eye to eye concerning the manufacturer’s productivity plans – most notably at the Mirafiori factory recently.

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By GlobalData

FIOM and FIM have both expressed scepticism about the top government brass being at the Saturday meeting – and it’s quite a roll call of the country’s elite powerbrokers.

As well as the PM, economic minister Giulio Tremonti, industry minister Paolo Romani, labour minister Maurizio Sacconi and cabinet under-secretary Gianni Letta will also attend the get-together, although both unions remain wary of their motives.

“It is only an operation for appearance…the meeting with the prime minister and all the ministers is only for the media,” a FIM spokesman in Italy told just-auto today (9 February).

FIOM was predictably more scathing in its assessment – “political theatre, build [ing] up a little show,” was its initial reaction before noting that cabinet under-secretary Letta was the one “really driving the chariot.”

The issue also appears to have caught the attention of the mayor of Turin and with so many bodies ranged against his position, Marchionne will have his work cut out. But is Fiat boss floating an idea he has no intention of implementing?