February 5, 2016 / 9:05 PM / 3 years ago

UAW head says seeks to discuss small car output with Fiat Chrysler CEO

UAW President Dennis Williams addresses their Special Bargaining Convention held at COBO Hall in Detroit, Michigan in this March 25, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky

DETROIT (Reuters) - The head of the United Auto Workers said on Friday he has asked Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne for a meeting to discuss the company’s plan to stop making two low-profit car models.

UAW President Dennis Williams said at a press conference at the union’s Detroit headquarters that he had sent a message to Marchionne, but he has not yet heard back from the Fiat Chrysler chief.

Marchionne last week said that the compact Dodge Dart and the midsize Chrysler 200 would “run their course” of current production and then the company would stop making them. Marchionne said he is looking for a partner so production can be outsourced, but industry analysts have said that it will be hard to find a partner to make cars that are not highly profitable.

Marchionne said Fiat Chrysler wants to “defocus the passenger car market” in favor of more production of profitable and in-demand pickup trucks and utility vehicles.

Williams, whose term runs through mid-2018, wants to ensure that UAW jobs are secure. Marchionne said last month that the shift in the U.S. market toward making larger vehicles and away from passenger cars, will not mean fewer U.S. plant jobs, but he believes it is permanent.

Williams said he wants to talk with Marchionne about several options, including opening another plant in the United States that would be flexible enough to make several types of vehicles.

U.S. regular gasoline prices have been sliding and are the cheapest since early 2009, averaging $1.76 a gallon. Williams said if prices spike, it would not affect the popularity of SUVs and trucks or impact jobs assembling them, as occurred in recent years.

“I see that trend going for a long, long time,’ the UAW president said, in part because of improving fuel economy of larger vehicles.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Alden Bentley

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