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Chrysler/Fiat CEO apologizes to group for ethnic slur


An anti-bias group says it has received a written apology from Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne for his use of a pejorative word to refer to Italians.

The Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition says Marchionne apologized for using the word "wop" during a press conference at the Detroit Auto Show.    Marchionne was commenting on the long-delayed introduction of the new generation of Alfa Romeos.  He stated, “I won't put an American engine into that car. With all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a wop engine.” 

Marchionne was born in Italy, but moved to Canada when he was a boy.

The jet-setting CEO of two companies, Fiat in Italy, and Chrysler in the U.S., Marchionne's notorious shoot-from-the-hip style in press conferences causes many a furrow of dismay to appear on the foreheads of his press relations "handlers," to be sure. 

Marchionne also got unwelcome press attention in 2010 when he referred to the federal government's 2009 bankruptcy bailout loans as "shyster loans."  He later apologized for that, too.

Marchionne pays close attention to press reports about him and his companies, and he appears to enjoy chastising major news agencies that get it wrong.

Fiat recently issued a response to a Bloomberg article that, citing unnamed sources, claimed Marchionne plans to set up headquarters in the U.S. for the fully-merged Fiat and Chrysler, once that happens.

Fiat's response, though immediate, was somewhat limp.  The issue is "not currently on the agenda."

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.