What it must have been to be a fly on the wall at this weekend’s (12 February) pow-wow between the Italian government and Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne.
The Fiat CEO was called to Rome to clarify the automaker’s future plans following speculation it could move its headquarters from Italy to the US.
The suggestion has sent the Italian press into meltdown, with Fiat tersely dismissing their reaction as “confused, complete nonsense” and adding for good measure they had ” completely twisted this story.”
Nothing it seems will be decided until 2014, although no detail has been forthcoming as to what might occur at that point. Fiat was at pains to point out to just-auto today (14 February) it could potentially operate bases in Italy, the US, Brazil and China.
“We were talking about maybe in some future moment in time, should Fiat and Chrysler merge, the question where would be the headquarters of this merged company,” said Fiat.
It seems whatever Fiat says – or doesn’t – makes headline news in Italy – and a potential shift away from its home base is just about guaranteed to occupy acres of print hence Marchionne’s unscheduled trip to Rome.
But sources close to the Italian government have cast a more nuanced account of the meeting between the Fiat chief, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and several of his top ministers.
Speaking to just-auto from Rome, the source said one minister remained “completely silent” during the meeting when Marchionne confirmed his plans to invest EUR20bn (US$27bn) in Fiat’s Italian operations.
Speculation has centred on whether the minister was confident Marchionne would deliver, although the politicians themselves may not be in their same positions when it comes to Fiat’s evaluation date of 2014.
“We can’t know because after that date the life of the government, the deadline is 2013,” said the Italian source.
Fiat has mentioned 2014, while the Italian government will change a year earlier. Is the automaker banking on a new political landscape to shape its future?