Italy could invest in Stellantis like France, minister says

Italy could invest in Stellantis like France, minister says

Automotive News Europe — 2024-02-01

Automotive Industry

The Italian government is open to buying a stake in Stellantis, industry minister Adolfo Urso said, as he set out plans to provide €950 m ($1 bn) in subsidies this year to help drivers switch to cleaner cars.

The new incentive plan follows a clash between Italy's rightist government and Amsterdam-based Stellantis, which owns Italian brands Fiat and Alfa Romeo, over production levels in the country.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni criticized Stellantis last month for its efforts to move car production to lower-cost countries at a time when the auto industry is struggling to shift to electrification.

Urso said Italy could match the French government by taking a stake in the automaker, whose other brands include Peugeot and Jeep.

"If Tavares maintains that Italy needs to do the same as France, which has boosted its active investment in Stellantis, then they can ask," Urso told reporters on Thursday 1 February.

"The difference between France and us is that they are in the share capital and we aren’t," Urso said. "Make a request and we can discuss it together.”

The balance between Italy and France on the Stellantis board has been a point of friction between the two countries.

France holds a 6% stake in Stellantis, the group formed in 2021 through the merger of Fiat Chrysler and France's PSA Group. France also has representatives on the company's board of directors. Italy has no stake and no representatives. Italy's Agnelli family is the largest investor in Stellantis through its Exor vehicle.

Urso said that Stellantis had committed to boosting production in Italy back to the million vehicle level, a figure last hit in 2017. The total last year was around 750,000.

Urso has in the past called for state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) to buy a stake in Stellantis.

Last June, Stellantis Chairman John Elkann said his company did not need to add the Italian state to its shareholders.

Public squabbles

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has said that Italy spends less than other major European countries to support the development of electric vehicles and that approach was holding back production.

Tavares never shies away from criticizing politicians and has also had public squabbles with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. He has been unwilling to cave in to Le Maire's request to produce some cheaper EV models locally.

Tavares cited Italian plants in Mirafiori, where the company produces the electric Fiat 500, and its factory in Pomigliano, near Naples, as sites where jobs are more at risk from Meloni's policies.

During a visit to Europe's largest van-making factory in Atessa, central Italy last month, Tavares was very vocal in praising the company's Italian workers.

"When we are happy, then we are happy," Tavares said. "In the case of Atessa, they have reduced their cost by 30%. They have improved their quality sevenfold. It's quite outstanding, which means they are in control of their destiny."

"When we manage our plants, we don't do it in function of our mood," Tavares said. "Of course, the fact that we are very fact-based is often used by the people that do not want to recognize the success of Stellantis. They are using it against us by saying that we are financially driven, we are cold, that we are inhuman."

Meloni's government is also not taking into account the fact that Tavares is Portuguese, not French, he said.

"If we talk about the French mandate that they are trying to use as a scapegoat, they just ignore that the CEO of the company is a Portuguese guy," he said.