Fiat not to leave Italy amid sales plunge

September 19th, 2012 - 12:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Turin, Sep 19 (IANS/AKI) Amid a Europe-wide decline in car sales, Italian automobile giant Fiat said it does not intend to leave Italy or close any of its Italian plants.

“The car industry is on its knees here, but I will keep Fiat in Italy - with earnings made abroad,” Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne told Italian daily La Repubblica.

Fiat is crucial to the growth of recession-mired Italy’s stagnant economy, he argued.

“I have never spoken of redundancies, I have not proposed closing plants and I never said I wanted to leave (Italy),” Marchionne said.

Car registrations in Italy plummeted 20 percent in August and fell 8.5 percent Europe-wide from a year earlier, according to Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

Fiat’s European sales fell 18 percent to 37,687 cars in August.

Marchionne also said the car market in Italy next year would “be very, very bad”.

It was the biggest fall in European auto sales for six months as the region’s economic woes even hurt demand in Germany.

Marchionne said the economic crisis and the collapse of the European auto market meant Fiat’s investment plans have changed.

“Fiat has accumulated 700 million euros of losses in Europe while it is compensating for these with its success abroad, in the US and in emerging economies.”

Fiat has been forced to bring production to a standstill in factories in Italy, where car sales have slumped to levels not seen for 40 years.

Alarmed unions and politicians have levelled sharp criticism at Fiat and urged it to come clean since the company said last week a five-year plan to invest some 20 billion euros in Italian plants by 2014 was no longer realistic given the current economic crisis.

Italy’s industry and labour ministers have said they want to meet Marchionne for talks, although no date has been set.

The company has only earmarked a fraction of the funds outlined in its so-called Fabbrica Italia or “Italian Factory” plan, a situation Marchionne blamed on the economic downturn but also on left-wing workers who opposed changes to work practices at Fiat.

“I was counting on a market that would hold up, and it collapsed, and on a reform of the labour market, and I now have 70 cases against the company filed by (left-wing union) Fiom,” he told La Repubblica.

Workers at Fiat’s Pomigliano plant near Naples demonstrated Tuesday outside the town hall and threw eggs at the offices of the moderate Uilm trade union in protest against a two-week shutdown starting Sep 24.

Referring to Fiat’s Panda compact car, made at Pomigliano and on which the company spent 800 million euros to develop, Marchionne said: “It isn’t selling, because there is no market.”

–IANS/AKI
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