Fiat has no intention of selling its Alfa Romeo brand
to Volkswagen, the company's boss Sergio Marchionne said on Monday,
as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti ruled out state subsidies to
lift the firm out of its crisis.
"Alfa Romeo is not for sale," Marchionne said on the sidelines of an industrialists' meeting in Turin, where Fiat has its headquarters.
He added a message in the local dialect addressed to Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech: "Leave it and go somewhere else."
Fiat is suffering from a slump in sales in recession-hit Italy, its main market, and elsewhere in Europe, but still makes profits thanks to better performances in Brazil and in the United States, where it owns the Chrysler and Jeep brands.
European market leader Volkswagen is in much better financial shape, and has in the past expressed interest in Alfa Romeo, a well-known maker of sporty cars that has a devoted following among car enthusiasts.
Marchionne challenged Volkswagen to rival Fiat-owned Ferrari in Formula 1 races and insisted, "I will not give Alfa to them, they should solve the problems they have elsewhere. They have a great problem with Seat (Volkswagen's Spanish subsidiary)."
The manager lashed out at journalists "on the paybook of Wolfsburg," the company where Volkswagen is based, and said that "counting on foreigners to act as Italy's saviours is the greatest idiocy I have heard in my life."
It was a thinly-veiled jibe at the Corriere della Sera newspaper, which has suggested that Fiat could solve its problems by selling Alfa and one of its Italian plants to its German rival.
Marchionne also criticized fellow industrialist Diego Della Valle, who owns the luxury footwear company Tod's, for suggesting that Fiat was suffering from poor sales because it had failed to invest in new models.
"What he invests on research and development in a year is not enough for us to even make part of a mudguard. He should stop bugging us," Marchionne said.
But Business Minister Corrado Passera, who last week expressed similar concerns to Della Valle's, insisted that the Italian government "does not agree" with Fiat's strategy of waiting for sales to pick up before refreshing its line-up.
Earlier this month, Fiat reneged on a pledge to invest 20 billion euros (25.8 billion dollars) in its five Italian factories because of its sales problems.
"The European car market is a disaster," Marchionne complained on Monday.
On Saturday, he was summoned by Monti in Rome to explain his strategy, in a meeting which Passera also attended.
"No financial concessions were asked and had they been asked, they would not have been granted," Monti said Monday during a conference organized in Rome by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Instead, the government wants to help Fiat by improving the overall "framework" of doing business in Italy, by pushing trade unions and employers to agree on measures to boost labour productivity.
"The government is ready to look at how it can support the outcome of the talks" between trade unions and employers, Monti said. "I ask them, as they did in many other very difficult occasions for Italy, to look at this issue courageously and without prejudice," he added.
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