In recent days, Stellantis has faced significant criticism from prominent Italian figures regarding the direction it is taking with iconic Italian marques, especially Fiat. Key issues include plant closures, a shrinking workforce, declining sales, and a perceived shift in focus towards France. Notable individuals such as businessman Flavio Briatore, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Carlo Calenda, and former Ferrari President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo have publicly voiced their concerns, shedding light on the growing discontent within Italy.
Flavio Briatore, a well-known Italian businessman and former manager of the Benetton Formula One racing team, expressed his dissatisfaction with Stellantis Chairman John Elkann in a recent interview. Briatore boldly stated, “Fiat is no longer Italian,” emphasizing that decision-making within Stellantis appears to be more centralized in France, undermining the traditional Italian identity of Fiat. Briatore further criticized Elkann’s disengagement from Italy, questioning whether Gianni Agnelli, if alive, would approve of the recent developments. Briatore went on to say, “I really don’t think that Agnelli, if he were alive, would be happy with what his nephew has done in recent years.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, in an interview with Reuters, highlighted ongoing talks between the Italian government and Stellantis regarding plans to increase annual production in Italy to 1,000,000 vehicles. However, Meloni expressed skepticism about Stellantis’ commitment to Italy, claiming that the automaker seems more focused on France than on its industrial choices in Italy. She stressed the importance of Stellantis delivering on its promise to produce Italian-made vehicles, especially when marketing them as “Italian jewels.” Meloni criticized Stellantis, saying, “If you want to sell a car… advertising it as an Italian jewel, that car must be Made-In-Italy.”
Carlo Calenda, an Italian business executive and politician, added fuel to the fire by pointing out Stellantis’ actions since the death of Sergio Marchionne. Calenda criticized Elkann for selling businesses, such as Magneti Marelli, to foreign entities, contributing to a 30% reduction in production in Italy compared to the Marchionne era. He lamented that models touted as “Made-In-Italy” were, in reality, being produced in locations like Serbia, not reflecting the authentic Italian automotive spirit. Calenda stated, “The said reality is that today that group produces 30% less in Italy than in the Marchionne era. And the new models, passed off as Made-In-Italy, are Made-In-Serbia.”
Former President of Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, expressed dismay over the production decisions made by Stellantis. Di Montezemolo asserted that a revered model like the Fiat 600, along with the iconic Fiat 500, are now being manufactured in Poland, raising questions about the company’s commitment to its Italian roots. He suggested that such decisions might not have occurred under the leadership of Sergio Marchionne. Di Montezemolo publicly stated, “We no longer have a car company in Italy. The property does not matter, whether it has been sold or not sold; the truth is that all decisions affecting the Italian market are made in Paris.”
As prominent Italian figures continue to voice their concerns, it is evident that there is a growing discontent among Italians regarding Stellantis’ management of the Fiat brand. Whether these concerns will lead to tangible changes in Stellantis’ approach or further discussions with the Italian government remains to be seen. However, the soul of Fiat is at the center of this controversy, with many questioning whether the brand can retain its iconic Italian identity under the current direction of Stellantis.