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Fiat won't close Italy plants in Opel deal

FIAT Group Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne does not foresee closing Fiat plants in Italy as part of any alliance with General Motors Corp's European operations, Italy's industry minister said in an interview published yesterday.

Thousands of workers marched over the weekend in Fiat's hometown of Turin to voice concerns that Fiat's move to take over GM's German subsidiary Opel GmbH would force the closure of one or more Italian plants. Opel workers in Germany are equally concerned. Unions in both countries cite an overlap in the same-size models, alongside the huge decline of auto sales.

"Marchionne has always said and maintained, also in recent days, that closures in Italy are not foreseen," Industry Minister Claudio Scajola told the Milan daily Corriere della Sera. "The strategy would be to aggregate around Turin (both) Chrysler and Opel to create the second-largest group in the world, with the greatest volumes and most evolved products. I would be more concerned if Fiat would have remained still, or if it had been Opel to buy it."

Marchionne has been meeting with officials in Germany to lay out his plans to take on GM's European operations. He also has reached a deal for Fiat to take a controlling stake in Chrysler LCC, an operation that will be completed once Chrysler emerges from bankruptcy.

On Sunday he met with the governor of the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, which has an Opel plant.

Canadian auto parts maker Magna International has said it is in talks about options for Opel that might include taking a minority stake, and the German government has asked both parties to submit details of their concepts for Opel's future by tomorrow.


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