It was a very close margin but Fiat S.p.A. CEO Sergio Marchionne won the most votes for a labor deal to proceed, paving the way for the production of Jeep models for the U.S. market together with the Alfa Romeos in Italy.
The workers at Fiat's Mirafiori factory in Turin voted 54% in favor of the contract that puts a limit to strikes and absenteeism in exchange for investment. Marchionne warned the workers that if the workers refused the changes then he will send the cash overseas.
Marchionne, who successfully turned around Fiat from its financial troubles, had engineered the Italian carmaker's 25% stake in Chrysler Group, which includes the Jeep brand. Most of the plant unions approved the deal but the left-wing Fiom had rejected it.
According to union spokesmen, the deciding factor had been the support from white-collar workers. As part of a new joint-venture company that will take control of the Mirafiori plant, Fiat and Chrysler plan to invest over 1 billion euros ($1.32 billion) to build Alfa Romeo cars and SUVs and Jeep models for the European and North American markets.
The Mirafiori plant will produce the mid-sized Giulia sedan and station wagon (which replaces Alfa's 159 range), and medium SUVs for the Alfa and Jeep brands. These vehicles are expected to start rolling out in the third or fourth quarter of 2012.
Half of the production is intended for Europe while the other half is to be exported mainly to North America. The Alfa models are considered to be a critical part of the brand's relaunch in North America. [via autonews - sub. required]