Fiat boss eyes Chrysler merger in 2014

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Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks during the unveiling of a Maserati plant in Grugliasco, near Turin, Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. Marchionne said Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, that he expected the merger of the Italian car giant and its US partner Chrysler will take place in 2014. AP PHOTO/DANIELE BOTTALLO, LAPRESSE

ROME—Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne said Sunday that he expected the merger of the Italian car giant and its US partner Chrysler will take place in 2014.

“We will succeed in doing it,” he said in an interview with the editor of the Repubblica newspaper. “We and VEBA (the United Auto Workers pension fund—a Chrysler shareholder) have different opinions on the value of Chrysler but we will resolve the problem in 2014.”

Marchionne, who heads both companies, had said on January 30 that the ties between the two automakers were “irreversible” and would merge “as soon as I can afford it” but did not put date on the merger.

Asked on Sunday if Fiat would keep its Turin headquarters, Marchionne said: “We are a big group present throughout the world, it will depend on access to financial markets and the choices of the Agnelli family” who founded Fiat.

He had “not thought” about the future name of the new entity, he said.

The deal will ultimately give Fiat a 65-percent stake in Chrysler and full ownership by 2015.

Boosted by increased sales at Chrysler, the Italian giant on Wednesday reported a profitable 2012, announcing a fourth-quarter net profit that rose to 388 million euros ($525 million) from 265 million euros the year before.

The company said it was aiming for profits of between 1.2 and 1.5 billion euros this year.

Fiat took a 20 percent stake in Chrysler in 2009 as the third-largest US automaker emerged from a government-financed restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

It has since steadily expanded its stake by purchasing shares owned by the US government and the VEBA fund.

The Fiat boss again reiterated the group’s new change in strategy toward a luxury market and rejected rumors that Fiat would sell Alfa Romeo to Germany’s top auto giant Volkswagen.

“I have already said 200,000 times that Alfa Romeo is not for sale and definitely not to them,” adding he had trouble even pronouncing the German carmaker’s name.

“We are the ones who will present the (world’s) most costly car at Geneva, the new Ferrari,” he said referring to next month’s Geneva Motor Show. “We make it in Italy with Italian workers. What do I need to learn from Germans?” he asked defiantly.

Fiat would manufacture its luxury cars at the company’s historical factory at Mirafiori, Marchionne said, and at its plant in Grugliasco, which now houses the Maserati Quattroruote production line.

Dispelling fears last year that Fiat would be forced to shut plants in Italy, he said the group was committed to keeping production in the country.

He also pledged to bring workers in Italian factories who were forced to go part-time back into full employment before a three to four-year deadline previously given.

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