March 31, 2009

Obama links Chrysler aid to Fiat (Updated)


For Chrysler, America’s third biggest car manufacturer, the clock is ticking. The Obama administration has told the deeply troubled automaker it has 30 days of financial aid in which to complete its proposed deal for an alliance with Italy’s Fiat. And Chrysler has responded that it has reached an agreement on a framework of a global alliance with Fiat.

Chrysler’s troubles worsened last fall when the meltdown on Wall Street hit. So most analysts said the US automaker had little hope of surviving as a standalone company. Italy’s Fiat, in turn, has its own troubles, but it is still true that it is at the moment the stronger of the two and a recognized world leader in the area of innovative and environmentally friendly products, thanks to its chief, Sergio Marchionne, who has pulled the company back from the brink collapse since taking over in 2004.

So, in January, Fiat and Chrysler decided to lend a hand to one another. And yesterday the US President Barack Obama linked Chrysler aid to Fiat and made it clear that any aid to the American automaker would depend on it striking a partnership with Italy’s Fiat. “Chrysler needs a partner,” he said, and “if they are able to reach a solid agreement which protects American consumers, we will consider lending them $6 billion […] if no such accord is reached and if no other viable partnership surfaces, we will not be able to justify the investment of further taxpayer money to keep Chrysler operating.” Fiat, he added, “is ready to transfer its cutting-edge technology to Chrysler and, after having worked closely with my team, has promised to build new, fuel-efficient cars and motors here in America.”

A Chrysler-Fiat combination would be the world’s sixth-largest by vehicle sales, behind Ford Motor Co.

UPDATE - MARCH 31, 2009, 3:00 pm

1. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is in the United States to hammer out the details of the partnership with Chrysler which will allow the Detroit No.3 to qualify for up to $6 billion in government loans.

2. Corriere della Sera:
Sergio Marchionne, who has collected more than his fair share of plaudits, was stunned. He said: “I want to publicly thank President Barack Obama, on behalf of the entire management team, for his words of appreciation for the work done in the past five years, and for his encouragement to finalise a solid alliance between Chrysler and Fiat. Talks with the task force have been hard but fair. We are convinced that we can achieve a result that will offer a credible future to this crucial sector of the economy. We are extremely happy that Fiat can play a key role in this effort”.

Here is The People of Freedom

The three-day founding congress, with about 6,000 delegates gathered in Rome to baptize the Il Popolo della Libertà (People of Freedom) party, the new conservative party which is a merger of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the rightwing Alleanza Nazionale, is over. It’s an important event, but not an absolute novelty, since the two parties ran together and won under the PDL label in last year’s general election. In other words, the new party was already a fait accompli, even though its “official baptism” has certainly marked another highly important step for both the conservative coalition (though only two of the three main groups on the right are included in the PDL) and the Italian political system as a whole. However, the point is that the People of Freedom is expected to make the Italians a stronger force in the European Parliament’s largest party grouping—the conservative EPP-ED—after the next European elections (the latest opinion polls gave the new party a 44 per cent share of the national vote).

As it was widely predicted, however, the event sounded like an unending and ecstatic hymn of praise to the Cavaliere, elected by acclamation as the first president of the new party, which provoked much annoyance among the opponents, in Italy and outside, who rant about the supposed “cult of personality” that surrounds Silvio Berlusconi. What they seem to forget is the messianic cult that surrounds “their” Barack Obama, but it doesn’t really matter, because their proverbial ability to opportunistically exploit this kind of charges (ad usum delphini, of course) is well known.

But, perhaps, what Berlusconi’s fiercest opponents most disliked was this passage of his conclusion speech: “The constitution must be enriched and revitalised ... The powers of the prime minister are almost non-existent ... The country needs to be governed.” Which is the plain truth, as they themselves well know. He also said that he would seek the support of the center left opposition in changing the constitution—which is a mere illusion, and he knows it—but would go alone if it did not co-operate. If I should express my candid opinion I should say “better alone than in bad company,” or in a company that can kill you.