Fiat spent much of 2011 jousting with Italian labor unions over contracts and plant security. The matter was finally resolved in December when Fiat signed new labor agreements, but a sign of Fiat's take on the matter was its departure from Confindustria, an Italian business group, over concerns that group labor agreements were crippling international competitiveness. Some recent comments by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, though, seem to point the company back to loggerheads with labor.

According to a Reuters report, Marchionne said that Fiat might close two of its five Italian plants "if plans to export to the growing U.S. market don't materialize." The plans in question appear to be based on getting Alfa Romeo back to the U.S. market, but the only public news we've had about that is delays and upset dealers. The report didn't say when Marchionne was considering shutting down the plants, but with Alfa's U.S. return timed for next year at the earliest, it seems a bit early for Marchionne to turn into a crapehanger.

Indeed, the report has riled the head of Italy's largest metalworker's union, who called the comments "worrying," cited the failed attempts to get Alfa here and called plans for the brand "weak, overambitious and adventurous."

What's not in question, however, is that Marchionne has to figure out how to get more from Fiat's Italian operations. While Chrysler plants are at capacity, a Bloomberg report put Fiat's Italian factory utilization at 38 percent in the first three quarters of 2011, and said Italian workers produced 30 cars per year on average while Polish workers produced 100, before accounting for model and work disparities. Pinning hopes on Alfa's export possibilities to turn those numbers around strikes us as odd.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      MikeInNC
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think a good start would be to sell more than one model in the US. Step 2 would be to stop 'saying' Alfa is coming to the US and get it done. We are tired of the broken promises, we want freaking Alfas back on US soil. It's simply been far too long in the planning and far too little in the execution.
      WhoMeWhere
      • 2 Years Ago
      If Fiat fails to make it in the USA it will be their own fault. The only car Fiat has for sale here right now is the 500. As great as the 500 is, the numbers of sales is low and is not going to be able to carry Fiat. The only way to make this gamble work is to go 100%, bring all Fiat models to the USA in the next year or two or get out.
        Jan Calloway
        • 2 Years Ago
        @WhoMeWhere
        i love the car but, i concur, go big or go home. you act like you want to stay, you will stay.
      budwsr25
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't understand what's taking so long? Do the crash testing fix the problems and put the cars on the boat and ship them over. I can't be that hard. If they can ship over a ferrari and maserati they should be able to do the same to the alfa.
      TopGun
      • 2 Years Ago
      I find it ironic that the thought was FIAT was going to save Chrysler...when it seems to me to be the other way around. You can criticize Marchionne for all kinds of things (like Fiat 500 sales projections), we must give him credit for recognizing Chrysler was a jewel that was given up for dead...no one wanted it. A larger amount of credit should be paid to those that work at Chrysler for turning out some great product that was already in the pipeline before the FIAT boys and girls showed up. Grand Cherokee, Wranger, 300, Charger, Dart, and updated interiors that beat the crap out of Honda and Toyota interiors.
        Mike Pulsifer
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TopGun
        You include the Dart in that list? You do realize, don't you, that the Dart is built on an Alfa platform and has at least two FIAT engine choices?
          MyerShift
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Mike Pulsifer
          The Dart only has one FIAT engine option at present: 1.4T. The 2.0L and 2.4L TigerShark engines are thoroughly updated GEMA engines.
        Ryan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TopGun
        Brilliant. I was going to type something similar, you saved me the keystrokes. I fully agree, Chrysler was a diamond that was having **** kicked over it, but Marchionne is a savvy businessman and saw a good deal to buy into a company that already had the talent and the forward thinking necessary to be great... they just needed the capital and to stop having their heads held in the proverbial cost-cutting toilet bowl by greedy overlords. Now, Chrysler is going to help save Fiat, and through that, Ferrari and Maserati. Who'd have thunk it?
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TopGun
        [blocked]
          guyverfanboy
          • 2 Years Ago
          No, that just means they not nearly as productive as their Polish counter-parts.
        Randy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @TopGun
        "A larger amount of credit should be paid to those that work at Chrysler for turning out some great product that was already in the pipeline" You realize all Chrysler brands including Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and RAM are dead last in reliability right? With that said, the difference between best and worst is about 1 or 2 problems per vehicle, so it's not like the products are total garbage. But, since they are all (and I mean a to z) sitting at the bottom of the reliability studies, they do need to improve their quality, not just the look and feel! If they get around to it, then, they will be a solid contender. Until then, they are the "worst in quality" car company with nice designs! Again, I'm not saying they are garbage because today, the worst cars and trucks are only 1 or 2 trips to the dealer / rental car more than the best. I just had issue with "great product". Had you said "great looking product" I wouldn't have replied!
          Frank
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Randy
          You have to remember that the current studies out are for cars that 3 years old. That was 2009. What happened then? Oh yeah, the s^&* hit the fan. The stuff that's out today is better in every way. We won't see the long term results till 2015.
          Randy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Randy
          Ford is at the top of the reliability list and they were boot-strapped too! Caddy is at the top of the list too and they were in the same situation as Chrysler. Can't say that Chevy is on the top of the list (ehh hem, they're below average) but they're not at the bottom! Ya know?
      ken
      • 2 Years Ago
      The ironic part of this story is: Some criticized on Obama's decision to sell Chrysler to the Italians, claiming exportation of jobs and engineering; But now, it becomes increasingly obvious that US manufacturing is winning against European leftists and Chinese cheap labors, luring jobs and engineering back to America, under the leadership of a black democrat president.
        Frank
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ken
        What few people know is that Chrysler has some of the most modern and flexible plants in the business. One of the few things that Daimler allowed them to spend money on. FIAT was very surprised when they toured the US plants. The Italians could only go by what was printed in the media, and it was all bad. No matter who was president, this consolidation around Chrysler would have happened because they have the better facilities, and the dollar is weaker. But credit is due to Obama for giving Chrysler a chance. Ken you seem very concerned with ethnic as well as political labels so I will mention that Barack Obama is half white. His father probably would not have wanted to be called black, but African as he was from Kenya, so African-American would not have applied either.
          Frank
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Frank
          The birther thing is about Barack, not his father, who was in fact born in Africa. His mother was American. He was born in Hawaii. Funny thing, the whole birther controversy was started by supporters of Hillary Clinton.
        Dayv
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ken
        Speaking as someone that voted for Obama, you're coming off as kind of a jerk.
        Ron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ken
        Wow... Could you have made that more political?
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ron
          [blocked]
        A_Guy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ken
        A politically charged comment for sure, but no matter how you slice it; it's hard to deny.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @A_Guy
          [blocked]
        John
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ken
        It's all about the value of the dollar........which is so low because your President has had the treasury printing money like there is no tomorrow..............
        RJC
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ken
        I see a history lesson. Paperwork enabling the deal bears Obama's signature. And right here on Autoblog, they display the sales news every month in By The Numbers. It's not political, just data lifted from the correct sources, all showing historically factual events.
          lasertekk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RJC
          Agree. It's just data and information. If you're seeing more than this, you're reading into it too much.
        Eu_Driver
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ken
        This is not entirely accurate... Marchionne said in the same interview that with the industrial restructuring done in the past years, America is now "dependent" on imports from Mexico or Canada to meet its car demand. To achieve so, Marchionne hopes to use also its Italian production plants, that currently are underutilized due to lack of product (Alfa, for example, sells only two (!) different cars, one of B segment, the MiTo, and one of C segment, the Giulietta, the "little cousin" of your dodge Dart) and market, and not due to lack of productivity of Italian workers. Italian workers also cost much less than Americans (although more than Poles) and have higher "skill-rates" than Americans in World-Class-Manufacturing evalutation system. So... it doesn't seem to me that there will be a sort of "delocalization" to America from Italy of EU....
      XJ Yamaha
      • 2 Years Ago
      Keep the Fiats out of here. If they want to flood the American auto market with more cars than needed, try the Alfas.
      MyerShift
      • 2 Years Ago
      Chrysler is looking stronger and healthier all the time. Could this be why Marchionne is having Mopar be the global parts brand?
      ruissimo
      • 2 Years Ago
      If I were a worker at any of these plants, I would SERIOUSLY start looking for a backup plan, i.e. another job.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ruissimo
        [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Marc Swankhuizen
        • 2 Years Ago
        It's not the 1970s anymore dude. This is no more the same FIAT that failed here than Hyunday is the same company today as it was when it made that horrible little S coupe
      flyguy
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Italian auto industry (i.e. Fiat) is going thru the same process that the U.S. auto industry went thru a couple of years ago. Downsizing and outsourcing to cheaper and more productive plants...including U.S.A. My Fiat 500 is assembled in MEXICO. I feel sorry for the autoworkers in Italy but DAMN IT! ASSEMBLE MY ALFA 4C IN TIMBUKTU IF U HAVE TO...JUST SHIP IT BY 2013
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Eric G
      • 2 Years Ago
      If they bring over the Alfa like in the picture about, I would love to get it. I always thought that it Alfa made nice cars, a little funky looking, but nice. If they make them quality and available here in the states I would love to get one.
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