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Fiat execs bring back the smoke-filled room

One of the hurdles that Fiat executives have encountered as they try to forge an alliance with Chrysler is working in a smoke-free environment. The Italians are often spotted in clusters on the pavement outside the executive dining room at Chrysler's Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters. They're the ones puffing cigarettes.

The Fiat executives also have been known to light up outside Chrysler's Technology Center lobby or in the subterranean parking lots that link the two buildings. One of those is Fiat Chairman Sergio Marchionne, often described as a chain smoker.

"They're easy to spot because they're the guys who are so well-dressed," said a consultant who has worked with both companies. "You can tell the clothes are all coming from Milan, where Armani is, and not from some of the local off-the-rack places."

Many of the Italians wear fancy sport coats and ties -- but seldom Marchionne, who loathes ties almost as much as he loves a good smoke.

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