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Marchionne: Let carmakers decide how to meet mpg needs

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Sergio Marchionne doesn't oppose the government's upcoming fuel economy regulations, but the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO says officials shouldn't be picking how automakers get there.

Marchionne said automakers can meet the 2017-25 corporate average fuel economy regulations of 54.5 miles per gallon. However, subsidizing electrification technology is unnecessary, he said during the Automotive News World Congress at the Renaissance Center in Detroit on Tuesday.

"Let the automotive industry get there. We'll find a way to get there in the most cost-efficient way," he said. "Don't tell me that I need to have electrification as the answer. It's improper."

The Obama administration offers billions to companies to develop electric vehicle technology and up to $7,500 in tax credits for customers who purchase an electrified vehicle.

Marchionne has previously criticized U.S. federal and state mandates that push manufacturers to build electric cars.

Fiat Chrysler currently produces an all-electric Fiat 500, which Marchionne has told people not to buy because the company loses money.

Electric vehicle and fuel economy regulations were topics in a wide-ranging, hour-long discussion with Automotive News Editor-in-Chief Keith Crain at the World Congress. Other topics included the automaker's global business operations, keeping Ferrari pure and continuing Jeep Wrangler production in Ohio.

Marchionne said there are "less than 10" possible successors for him following his retirement in four years.

Regarding Wrangler production, Marchionne said he would like to keep production of the iconic SUV at its longtime home in Toledo, but there needs to be a "reasonable compromise."

Marchionne, from the Paris Auto Show in October, caused a commotion in Ohio by saying enhancements to the next-generation Wrangler such as an aluminum body could mean significant changes to its manufacturing that would likely lead to moving production from Toledo Assembly Complex.

"I'm going to spend a lot more time with our team and with the (Ohio) Gov. (John Kasich) and with the mayor of Toledo (D. Michael Collins) to see where we can find a way around this problem," he said Tuesday. "I think if we can find a reasonable compromise, I would like to keep it there. They (the workers) deserve it."

Toledo Assembly workers produced more than half of the more than 1 million Jeeps sold globally in 2014, a milestone and record for the brand.

Another vehicle, Marchionne has said, would take the Wrangler's place and employment at the plant would not be affected, but workers and Ohio officials have lobbied they would rather keep the Wrangler.

Marchionne, when asked about Ferrari, said production of the exotic vehicles will always remain in Italy.

"Anything else is blasphemy," he said to applause.

The World Congress ends a busy two days of media appearances for Marchionne, who spent a large amount of time with reporters during press days of the 2015 North American International Auto Show Monday and Tuesday at Cobo Center in Detroit.

mwayland@detroitnews.com

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