Chrysler chief confident about US but not Europe

The US economy continues to demonstrate underlying strength and contains the seeds of future growth for the auto industry, Chrysler's top executive Sergio Marchionne said Friday.

But he blamed German officials for impeding a rationalization of the industry in Europe that could bring it back to health.

During presidential elections, he said, "the US goes through this year-long process that demolishes consumer confidence," Marchionne told reporters after kicking off the annual fund raising drive for local community service organizations in Detroit.

"But the US economy is fundamentally sound," Marchionne said.

"There hasn't been enough job growth, but in the medium and long-term these numbers should work themselves out," he said.

"I don't think we're seeing any great reversal in China," he said, adding that he is also optimistic Asia's economies will continue to grow.

"It's a very different situation in Europe," he said. The eurozone crisis "needs to be managed aggressively."

Marchionne criticized "my German colleagues" for blocking a Europe-wide solution to the overcapacity in the auto industry there, where sales have steadily declined over the past five years.

But he said the Chrysler parent Fiat has no plans to close another plant, noting the Italian automaker had shuttered a factory in Southern Italy at the end of 2010.

"Fiat has already done a significant amount of rationalization," he said.

Meanwhile Marchionne expressed concerns about stalled contract negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union, which has set a midnight Monday strike deadline.

"We're going to have to move forward, not backward," Marchionne said.

"The ability to change is essential. The CAW is going to have to accept that," he said.

"It's important for them to recognize any decision they make stretches beyond the boundaries" of these negotiations, he said.

The CAW's contracts with Ford, Chrysler and General Motors all expire at 11:59 pm Monday.

The CAW represents about 4,500 workers at Ford, 8,000 workers at GM and another 8,000 at Chrysler and executives from all three Detroit companies have warned the future of automotive production in Canada is at stake.

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