Stellantis Chairman John Elkann credits former Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne with salvaging Italy’s auto industry and rejects years of criticism over the manufacturer progressively paring back its presence in the country.
“Sergio was a patriot in the highest sense of the word,” Elkann, 47, said in an interview for the latest edition of the biography of the late Marchionne, who ran the Italian automaker from 2004 until his death in 2018.
Marchionne and Elkann saved Fiat from near bankruptcy and combined it with U.S. manufacturer Chrysler, turning two struggling regional players into one of the world’s biggest auto producers.
“Our battles were always for Italy, never battles against Italy,” Elkann said at the Agnelli Foundation headquarters in Turin, which houses the villa of his great-great grandfather Giovanni Agnelli, who founded Fiat with a group of investors in 1899.
Stellantis, set up in 2021 through the combination of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group, is feeling heat from organized labor groups that is reminiscent of pressure they put on Marchionne.
Italy’s left-wing Fiom union has criticized the automaker over a series of so-called voluntary exits, as it looks to shed as many as 2,000 jobs this year, about 4.3 percent of its Italian workforce. The union claims Stellantis has cut 7,000 positions in Italy in the last three years.
Elkann insists that without the current strategy — which dates back to Marchionne and envisages building a global leader strong enough to survive the disruption of electrification — the company’s domestic plants would have been at existential risk.
“Stellantis is the evolution of Sergio’s vision: the need for mergers in the car industry to avoid duplication of costly investments required for new technologies,” Elkann said in a late February interview for the book.
“Without the creation of Stellantis, all the investments we are making in Italy — from the Mirafiori electric hub to the battery plant in Termoli — would not have been possible.”
Automakers have been grappling with inflation and supply chain disruption as they retool factories to transition to battery-powered cars, prompting cost-cutting drives and job cuts. EVs typically require about 30 percent less labor than gasoline vehicles.