UPDATE 1-Chrysler CEO pressures Canadians on minivan investment

Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:08pm EST
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By Bernie Woodall and Susan Taylor

DETROIT/TORONTO Jan 14 (Reuters) - The chief executive officer of Chrysler Group LLC, which is planning to invest more than $1 billion to modernize a Canadian minivan plant, said on Tuesday it could scrap the upgrade and move production and jobs elsewhere if government and labor officials fail to come through with financial incentives.

To keep production at the assembly plant, across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario, Chrysler must get a deal to cut costs, Sergio Marchionne told reporters at the Detroit auto show.

Time is running short to find a solution, he also said, with the automaker "weeks away from making a final call."

Chrysler executives were to meet on Wednesday with Canadian federal officials from Ottawa, Marchionne said, following his discussion on Monday with a group from Ontario's government.

"It went well. They understand the issues," he said of the Monday meeting. "It's costs and a variety of things. We have to create the conditions for this to be a successful investment. It's that simple."

Marchionne, chief executive of both Chrysler and its parent, Fiat SpA, said the company could invest elsewhere if Canadian labor costs are not lowered to be more competitive with the United States.

Jerry Dias, the national president of the Unifor union, which represents workers at the Chrysler Windsor plant, argues that Canadian labor costs are lower than those in the United States, after Canada's universal health care and weaker currency are factored into the equation.   Continued...