Crisis Forcing Fiat to Delay Launch of 2009 Models

Chairman says why make the most beautiful car in the world if no one is going to buy it.

Citing plunging sales, Fiat has decided to delay the launch of its 2009 models to a "more propitious time," chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said on Dec. 17. The company will roll out its Fiat 500 convertible, "but for the other new models, including the Alfa Romeo 149, we are thinking of waiting for a more propitious time," Di Montezemolo said.

"What's the point of making the most beautiful car in the world if no one is going to buy it from you?" he added.

Fiat, which like automakers all over the world is facing a sharp decline in sales because of the global financial crisis, has called several temporary work suspensions since October. The company based in northern Turin initially announced it was closing all its factories in Italy -- with some 48,000 employees -- from December 15 to January 12. But on Dec. 16 it told unions that these suspensions would continue longer in the larger factories.

Chief executive Sergio Marchionne last week painted a gloomy outlook for the auto industry, saying the only response for his group and all automakers is to make alliances.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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