Rome

Fiat not leaving Italy or closing plants, says Marchionne

Carmaker's European sales fell 17.7% in August

Fiat not leaving Italy or closing plants, says Marchionne

(ANSA) - Rome, September 18 - Fiat does not intend to leave Italy or close any of its Italian plants but the economic crisis and the collapse of the European auto market mean its investment plans have changed, the carmaker's CEO Sergio Marchionne has said. The company said last week that the Fabbrica Italia plan it announced in 2010 to invest some 20 billion euros in facilities in Italy over five years was no longer valid given the current climate, sparking alarm among trade unions and stiff criticism of Marchionne from several quarters. "I have never spoken of redundancies, I have not proposed closing plants and I never said I wanted to leave (Italy)," Marchionne said in an interview published in Tuesday's edition of Rome-based daily La Repubblica. "Fabbrica Italia was based on 100 things and half of them no longer exist because of the crisis". The extent of Fiat's difficulties was shown by European sales figures released on Tuesday. Fiat's sales in the European Union and the countries of the European Free Trade Association dropped to 37,687 in August, 17.7% down on the same month in 2011. The Italian carmaker's year-on-year European sales figures had fallen 16.4% in July and 16.7% in June. In the first eight months of 2012, Fiat sold 557,090 new cars, 16.6% down on the same period last year. The August fall in sales took Fiat's share of the European market down to 5.2%, compared to 5.8% in August 2011. Fiat said in a statement that it had been penalised by the "dreadful results of the Italian market", which saw sales fall by over 20% in July and August. "I was banking on a market that would hold up, and it collapsed, and a reform of the labour market, and I now have 70 cases against the company filed by (left-wing union) FIOM," added Marchionne, who is also CEO of Chrysler, which Fiat took control of in 2009. "I am not capable of pretending nothing has happened". The comments on FIOM seem to refer to Fiat's drive to introduce new factory-specific contracts outside Italy's long-established system of nationally negotiated collective deals to create flexible working practices at some plants in Italy. The drive led Fiat to leave Italy's powerful industrial employers' confederation Confindustria. The company said these deals, struck with moderate unions, were necessary to boost productivity and efficiency but the left-wing FIOM has fought them with venom, claiming they attack workers' rights and violate Italian labour laws. Union bosses, meanwhile, called Marchionne to clarify further clarify his stance on Tuesday. Raffaele Bonanni, general secretary of CISL, asked Marchionne to convene leaders immediately and "clarify just one point: if he intends to maintain and use the Fabbrica Italy plan when the market picks up, or if he doesn't want to use it any more, independently of the market situation". FIOM metalworkers union leader Giorgio Airaudo said Marchionne's comments were "not reassurances, they are just a way of buying time" and called on the government to take action. His comments were echoed by Susanna Camusso, leader of Italy's biggest union confederation, the CGIL, which FIOM belongs to. She said in an interview with the daily L'Unita' that: "if, as everything suggests, Fiat is oriented towards reducing production, the government needs to ask itself how to attract another producer. "Italy has always taken for granted the fact that cars are produced by Fiat and Fiat alone; instead the idea needs to be affirmed that the production of means of transport in the country cannot be the result of the choices made by a single company".

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