TURIN -- Unions have expressed concern about job losses at Fiat S.p.A's factories in Italy that they claim will be partly caused by the automaker's plans to build Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia cars for Europe in Chrysler's North American factories.
Automotive News Europe sources confirmed a March 24 report in Italian newspaper la Repubblica newspaper that Fiat plans to cut 5,000 of its 22,000 Italian assembly line workers to reduce overcapacity while shifting some production to Chrysler factories in North America.
The leader of the CGIL union, Guglielmo Epifani, complained on the Tg2 television news program that Fiat, which has a controlling 20 percent stake in Chrysler, is becoming a company which “slashes jobs in Italy, takes abroad part of its engine production and makes the most innovative things in the United States."
Epifani is angry that Chrysler will build an electric version of the Fiat 500 in the U.S. starting in 2012 and that Fiat's new fuel-sipping Twin-Air two-cylinder engine is built in Poland instead of Italy.
Another union leader, Gianni Rinaldini, head of the FIOM, told the ANSA news agency that the job cuts would be “worrisome and unacceptable.” He called on the Italian government to open talks with Fiat.
In November, Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the company will build Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia brand cars from the mid-sized segment upward alongside Chrysler models in Chrysler's North American factories.
Marchionne said on March 24 that Fiat is still working on a new strategic plan for 2010-2014 and strongly denied la Repubblica's report about job losses. “It's just speculation in the papers and whatever I might say would be incomplete,” Marchionne said on the sidelines of an industry event in Turin, according to ANSA.
“It's the deepest crisis we have seen in Europe and we haven't laid anybody off,” he said. “To attack Fiat this way in a moment like this is the most disproportionate thing I've ever seen. It's almost shameful.”
Chrysler said in November it will build 270,000 units a year for Fiat brand, Alfa Romeo and Lancia in factories in the United States, Canada and Mexico starting by 2014. The cars will be sold in North America and Europe.
Chrysler will also build 100,000 units a year of the Fiat 500 minicar in Mexico. The minicar will be sold in North America and Brazil. European 500s will continue to be made at Fiat's plant in Tychy, Poland.