Marchionne Optimistic He'll Get Canadian Aid

TORONTO (AP) -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chief executive Sergio Marchionne said Thursday he's more than halfway to getting what he's seeking from the Canadian and Ontario governments for a proposed multibillion upgrade to its Canadian plants.

Marchionne said proposed upgrades at Chrysler's Windsor and Brampton, Ontario plants would be the single largest investment made by the auto maker since it emerged from bankruptcy five years ago.

He declined to disclose financial details at the Canadian International Auto Show. The Globe and Mail reported he's seeking $700 million in government aid as part of a $3.6 billion investment.

Marchionne said Canada must decide if it wants the plants. The United States and Mexico are desperate for the investment, he said.

"I think we've got all the makings of a potentially successful transaction," Marchionne said. "It would be the single largest investment made by any automaker in this country in a number of years."

Marchionne noted auto makers have invested $42 billion in North American plants in the last five years, but only five percent of that amount has been invested in Canada. He also noted that Brazil is willing to invest 85 percent of the cost of a Chrysler investment in that country, but said he doesn't expect that same kind of support in Canada.

Chrysler has 10,000 employees in Canada. It makes minivans in Windsor and the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and the Dodge Challenger in Brampton.

"We've got to decide if you want this. If you do I am more than willing to stay," he said.

Marchionne, a dual Canadian and Italian citizen, made of point of saying how glad he was to be "home" and noted his 88-yearold mother still lives in Toronto.

"I am Canadian," he said. I will do a variety of things for this place that twist me into a pretzel, but you can't put me over a barrel. You just can't. You can't do it to any business. It's unfair."

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced in the federal budget this week $500 million in financial aid over two years for Ontario's auto sector. Flaherty said Chrysler is making a big request but said he's an adamant supporter of the auto sector. The federal Canadian and Ontario province governments worked in tandem with the U.S. government on auto bailouts in 2009 to maintain Canada's 17 percent share of North American auto production. Canada contributed $2.9 billion to the bailout of Chrysler in 2009.

The auto companies have said in recent years that Canada was the most expensive place in the world to make cars and trucks, and warned they could move production south if the Canadian Auto Workers union didn't cut costs. Canada's advantages in the past — a weak Canadian dollar and government health care — are not as strong as they once were compared to U.S. factories.

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