It’s been a week of backpedaling for Sergio Marchionne, the outspoken CEO of both Chrysler and its Italian affiliate, Fiat.
Seldom shy about expressing himself, the Canadian-educated executive has been tripped up by a series of quips, starting with remarks made, over the last week, that have managed to upset Canadians, Jewish groups, Italian unions, the City of Turin and the Italy’s teetering govenrment, which summoned Marchionne to Rome for an explanation of his loose talk.
The trouble began following a San Francisco speech during which he used the often anti-Semitic term, “shyster” to describe what he saw as excessive interest rates applied on the loans offered by the U.S. and Canadian governments, in 2009, to save Chrysler from liquidation.
The executive next suggested that Fiat might move its headquarters to Detroit, which became huge news across Italy. It didn’t help that Marchionne had, back in November, made disparaging remarks about his homeland on the popular Italian television show, “Che tempo chef a,” insisting Fiat “cannot continue…forever” operate in a country where, he insisted, a lack of productivity is considered an acceptable norm.