Turin

Fiat's Marchionne returns to Italy, preparing to meet Monti

CEO expected to allay layoff fears

Fiat's Marchionne returns to Italy, preparing to meet Monti

(ANSA) - Turin, September 19 - Fiat's chief executive Sergio Marchionne returned Wednesday to Italy in preparation for meetings Saturday with Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti and senior cabinet ministers. Marchionne, who was in the United States for meetings, set off a firestorm last week when he said he was tearing up a previous industrial strategy. Unions, government officials, and investors are all anxious to hear what his new production strategy will be for Fiat, Italy's largest private-sector employer and one of the country's most important industrial firms. It's expected Marchionne will outline some of his plans and try to allay fears of major layoffs at Fiat during Saturday's meeting with Monti at the premier's office. The meeting will also include Fiat Chairman John Elkann - who has expressed full confidence in Marchionne - Monti, Labour Minister Elsa Fornero and Corrado Passera, industry minister. The government says it wants clarity on Fiat's "commitment to the country and the future of (its) Italian factories". Fiat's future production strategy has been up in the air since it announced last week that its 2010 Fabbrica Italia plan to invest some 20 billion euros in facilities in Italy over five years was no longer valid, given the current economic climate. That has outraged unions representing some of Fiat's 80,000 employees, and even some members of Monti's cabinet. Marchionne has since then been trying to ease fears of potential lost employment and factory closures. In an interview published on Tuesday in La Repubblica newspaper, the Fiat chief said there was no plan to abandon Italy even if car sales have dropped. "We're here...I am not going to give up," he was quoted as saying. "I'm not talking about excess head count or of closing factories". The leader of Italy's biggest centre-left party offered the prime minister a bit of advice for Saturday's meeting. "I would tell (Marchionne) a few, very simple things: Fiat must reaffirm its commitments in Italy and a promise of research (in Italy) to develop new products for the world," said Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party, currently tipped to win next year's elections.

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