Fiat to outline strategy to Italian govt on Saturday amid fears of plant closures

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ROME - The head of Fiat and Chrysler will meet Saturday with Italian Premier Mario Monti to discuss the automaker's "strategic prospects" amid increasing fears about possible plant closures in Italy.

The government announced the meeting in a statement on Tuesday, days after two of its ministers urged Fiat — Italy's largest employer and most important industrial concern — to clarify its plans.

In an interview published Tuesday in the Rome daily La Repubblica, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said he had no plans to move Fiat away from Italy — but he said he has had to review investments and slow down new car rollouts to adapt to a contracting European market to avoid squandering capital.

"In this dramatic situation, I have not spoken about firing, I have not proposed closing plants, and I have never said I wanted to go away," the newspaper quoted Marchionne as saying from Detroit.

Chrysler is currently negotiating a three-year labour contract with the Canadian Auto Workers union. The union reached a tentative agreement with Ford on Monday afternoon, a few hours before their contract was to expire. The CAW gave Chrysler and General Motors time to review their rival's contract, which will be used as a model for agreements at the other two companies.

Fiat plants in Italy have been running well below capacity, and many workers have been on extended periods of short-term layoffs with reduced pay.

Fiat has said it would provide details about future investments when it presents its third quarter earnings call Oct. 30. Sales in Italy, Fiat's main market in Europe, dropped by 20 per cent in the first six months of 2012.

The European car market continued to contract over the summer, down 7.5 per cent in July and 8.5 per cent in August. Fiat registered a 6.5 per cent market share in July and 5.2 market share in August.

Organizations: Canadian Auto Workers union, Ford, General Motors

Geographic location: Italy, ROME, Detroit Europe

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