Tavares says Italy plants have a future; warns on Chinese rivals

Tavares says Italy plants have a future; warns on Chinese rivals

Automotive News Europe — 2024-02-15

Automotive Industry

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said the company will need all of its Italian factories to hit its long-term production goal there, in conciliatory remarks that may ease tensions between the automaker and Rome.

Tavares reiterated a commitment agreed with the Italian government to boost the automaker's output in the country to one million vehicles by the end of the decade, from around 750,000 vehicles last year.

His comments in a media briefing may ease fears about possible plant closures in Italy, in particular the Mirafiori complex in Turin, and Pomigliano, near Naples.

"To reach the one million goal ... we need all of our plants, which means, of course, there is a future for Pomigliano and Mirafiori," Tavares said on Thursday after Stellantis released 2023 results.

Stellantis, which owns the Fiat and Maserati Italian brands, and Italy's government have engaged in a bitter war of words in the past month.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has accused Stellantis, the country's sole major automaker, of taking France's interests into consideration over Italian ones, and described the group's birth as an "alleged" merger which "actually disguised a French takeover."

Stellantis was formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and France's PSA Group.

Rome approved earlier this month a new incentive scheme for auto purchases, worth €950 m  ($1 bn) this year.

"We are so grateful to the Italian government," Tavares said, adding that Stellantis' calculations showed incentives "automatically" add 20,000 vehicles to Italy's annual automotive production.

Stellantis has said the Italian output goal depended on several factors on top of incentives, including the development of an electric vehiclecharging network and lower energy costs.

If Stellantis could sustain the 10 percent output growth it delivered in Italy last year, it could reach 1 m "very, very fast" -- before 2030, Tavares said.

But if another carmaker started producing in the country, it would made the target harder.

"If we invite more Chinese carmakers to produce in Europe, do you think it's going to help?," Tavares said.

On Wednesday, Industry Minister Adolfo Urso said Italy had been working for months to attract another automaker to the country.

China's Chery is currently launching a sales push in European markets. Its Europe managing director Jochen Tueting told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche that if the launch is successful the company would consider setting up its own plant in Europe.