Sergio Marchionne believes he can keep up his transatlantic commute for two years before something would have to be done about his dual role as head of Italy's Fiat
At some point in time, we have to bring clarity to this, Marchionne told reporters on Monday after delivering remarks to a think-tank audience on the need to shrink the European auto industry and take decisive action at Chrysler.
Right now I work seven days a week -- I work 24/7. That's all I do. And that's OK for a period of time, Marchionne said, noting that his hands-on presence is vital to transforming the U.S. automaker.
This cannot go on forever, Marchionne allowed.
While he suggested a solution to his Detroit-Milan commute would have to be found within 24 months, he was more candid on the topic of rationalizing the European car market.
Clad in a dark sweater and tieless blue checked shirt, Marchionne firmly told a room full of suit-clad Washington policy and political insiders at the Peterson Institute for International Economics that European governments, unlike the Obama administration, have mishandled the car crisis.
Global auto overcapacity, especially in Europe, is a primary reason for the need for consolidation and other tough measures.
The need for rationalization is now undeniable, Marchionne said, noting that the objectives on both sides of the Atlantic should be the same but it appears Europe lacks the political will and the vision to take meaningful steps.
The direction taken in the United States has confronted the problem head-on. Real and significant measures have been taken to rationalize production.
The U.S. government forced bankruptcy restructuring at General Motors
Government intervention in Europe, he said, has been regionalized and incremental. In European Union member states have concentrated help within their own borders.
These unilateral interventions are by their very nature dangerous because they put a few players in a position of advantage while the remainder, such as Fiat, are forced to compete with their hands tied behind their backs, Marchionne said. All of this is being done in a common market.
Marchionne cited French intervention to protect factory jobs, but a more prominent case was Germany's run-in with European Union regulators in October over a proposal to bail out GM's Opel unit. Fiat at one point wanted a piece of Opel, which GM decided to keep. Marchionne called GM's decision the best outcome for the industry.
It needs to be owned by a global auto manufacturer, Marchionne said.
While he said barriers are hard to break down in Europe, the transformation at Chrysler has been swift and decisive. The cultural divide is gone and the transfusion is well under way. Expectations are realistic but the process exhibits urgency.
I hate to disappoint people waiting for the phenomenal marketshare numbers coming out of Chrysler, Marchionne said. The effort is not to be underestimated. They know they are on their last leg. They (Chrysler organization) are not going to get another chance.
(Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Matthew Lewis)