Speaking at an industry conference in San Francisco, the chief executive suggested the Italian firm might relocate its historic headquarters away from his city to the US.
“In the next two or three years, we could be looking at one entity. It could be based here. [We are looking at] alternatives and scenarios. First we need to integrate them [Chrysler and Fiat] operationally and then look at governance.”
This sparked outrage in Italy, where Marchionne is pushing through a contested labour deal as part of a project to invest 20 billion euros ($27.18 billion) to boost productivity at its loss-making Italian car plants.
However, short after the announcement, Marchionne (Fiat CEO) 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.
Industry minister Paolo Romani said Fiat must remain “an Italian multinational” and “the head of the car maker must remain in Turin”.
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.
Last month Chrysler, of which Fiat bought a 25 per cent stake last year, reported a $199m (£125m) net loss in the last three months of 2010, which it blamed on the interest payments. However this compared to a $2.7bn loss during the same period in 2009.
The company hopes its new vehicles will lure back jaded customers who long ago wrote off Chrysler products.
“We can open up the world to Chrysler, but I cannot turn her into an Italian company,” Marchionne said to a burst of applause from the crowd.
After 27 years Fiat Automotive this month again will sell a Fiat-brand car — the small, retro-styled Fiat 500 coupe that’s been a hit in Europe since rolling out in 2007. Fiat-controlled Chrysler will oversee sales of Fiats in the U.S.