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February 7, 2011

ITALY: Fiat US HQ suggestion worries politicians

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne seems to have had a controversial weekend, having had to apologise for a controversial loan-related remark and appease upset Italians.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne seems to have had a controversial weekend, having had to apologise for a controversial loan-related remark and appease upset Italians.

Fiat sees four management centres, with the Italian city of Turin, its historical base, retaining a central role, several newspapers said on Sunday, citing Fiat statements to politicians.

The clarifications by Fiat chiefs to government and regional politicians followed Friday’s comment by Fiat’s chief executive its headquarters could move to the United States after a merger with its affiliate Chrysler in two to three years, Reuters noted.

“(Sergio) Marchionne has explained the sense of the plans which refer exclusively to future possible company arrangements and which have not been decided,” Italy’s welfare minister Maurizio Sacconi said on Saturday.

No change is planned to the location of management and planning activities of the company in Turin, Sacconi said in his statement issued after he spoke to Marchionne.

Fiat chairman John Elkann phoned Turin mayor Sergio Chiamparino, la Repubblica said on Sunday. On Saturday, Chiamparino told the same newspaper a move of Fiat headquarters to the United States would be “unacceptable”.

“Elkann has explained Fiat’s strategy foresees the integration with Chrysler and that there will be more management centres where there is a strong market presence,” the Turin mayor said in the newspaper on Sunday.

There will “one at Turin, one at Detroit for the United States, one in Brazil, and if possible, one in Asia” he said in the daily, citing Elkann.

Marchionne’s comments on Friday in San Francisco  – where the National Automobile Dealers Association annual conference was taking place – were quoted by Italy’s Corriere della Sera, the mayor of Turin, Fiat’s birthplace, to demand “immediate clarification”

“It’s clear that an international group can have several offices but it would be different if the headquarters were in the United States,” Sergio Chiamparino said, according to AFP.

A number of leading politicians also expressed indignation, and the ANSA news agency had said talks were planned next week between Marchionne and economic development minister Paolo Romani.

In October, Marchionne had ignited controversy when he said that “Fiat would be better off if it eliminated Italy”.

Trade unions and politicians accused him of “blackmail” in pushing through a tough deal on working conditions at Fiat’s flagship Mirafiori plant in Turin to save the factory from closure.

Marchionne had given the workers the stark choice of losing their jobs or accepting more overtime, fewer breaks and shift work for up to 24 hours at a time, promising investment of EUR1bn (US$1.3bn) in Mirafiori in return.

FIM slams FIOM Mirafiori walkout as “flop”

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