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Fiat, Chrysler Sign Deal

ROBERT SIEGEL: And now news from the auto industry. Chrysler has reached a non-binding agreement with the Italian auto maker Fiat. The agreement would give Fiat a large stake in Chrysler which has received billions of dollars in Federal aid. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: The two companies said in a joint statement that they would share technologies and open access to each other's market. Fiat would also provide engine and transmission technologies to help Chrysler introduce new fuel-efficient small cars. Under the agreement, the Turin-based Fiat would not invest cash in Chrysler. The statement said Fiat will take an initial 35-percent stake, suggesting the deal could be broadened to 55 percent. Fiat vice president, John Elkann, also heir to the Fiat founding Agnelli family, welcomed the agreement as an important step in strengthening both companies in a rapidly changing auto market.

JOHN ELKANN: (Through Translator) I think this is a good deal. There are still many things happening. We have said before that consolidation of the auto industry is very important in the current market conditions.

POGGIOLI: Chrysler and Fiat each produce about the same quantity of vehicles per year, just over two million cars and trucks, but they have very different markets. Chrysler is mainly concentrated in North America, while Fiat, whose models include Lancia and Alfa Romeo, is well-entrenched in Brazil and Europe particularly in its home market, Italy. It now wants a bigger share of the American market. Fiat is well-know in Italy for its production of compact and relatively environmentally friendly cars. Its most popular models are small cars whose spare parts are cheap, easy to find and easy to install. But the Turin company also owns luxury sports car makers Ferrari and Maserati. The auto maker was founded in 1899 and has always remained in the hands of the Agnelli family. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is NPR, National Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.