Fiat CEO apologizes for slur made during Detroit Auto Show

Article by Anita Panait, on May 29, 2013

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Italian carmaker Fiat and its American unit Chrysler Group, has finally apologized over a comment made during the Detroit Auto Show in January 2013. During a roundtable with reporters at the event, Marchionne was discussing about new Alfa Romeo sedan to be sold in the United States when he said, “with all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a wop engine.”

Although Marchionne's use of the “wop” term was intended say that an Italian engine would be better than an American one for the model, it was offensive particularly to Italian Americans. “Wop” is a pejorative term used primarily to refer to people from Italy.

One of those offended by Marchionne’s use of the term was the Italian-American ONE VOICE coalition of New Jersey, which then launched a campaign against the remark and called for an apology from Fiat-Chrysler’s top honcho. Months later, they got it.

In a letter dated May 15, 2013, Fiat’s CEO asked for an apology. Marchionne said he, as an Italian, had used the pejorative term "in jest." Marchionne acknowledged that his remark was unacceptable, saying that he was aware of the negative implications of stereotyping “and the significant efforts required to undo its effects.” He then offered apologies to “anyone who may have been offended.” [source: automotive news - sub.required]

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