News sources reported Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne apologized for using an Italian-American slur during the North American International Auto Show last January. Gee, this guy should be working for General Motors.
Chrysler CEO apologizes for Italian-American slur
By Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press
UPDATE: 6:30 ET with comments from head of Italian-American organization and excerpts from Marchionne letter of apology.
Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has apologized to the Italian-American One Voice Coalition for using a term offensive to Italian-Americans during an interview during the North American International Auto Show last January in Detroit.
During a roundtable discussion with reporters, Marchionne was discussing a new Alfa Romeo car to be sold in the U.S. when he said, “with all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a wop engine.”
Marchionne’s use of the term was intended to convey that a Fiat-designed engine would be better than an American engine for this particular model. The term, however, is offensive to Italian Americans and others, and Marchionne apologized in a letter dated May 15.
The Italian-American One Voice Coalition, which exists to fight bias and ethnic slurs against Americans of Italian descent, sought an apology from Marchionne for several months.
“We jumped on it immediately,” said Manny Alfano, founder and president of the coalition.
Marchionne’s letter acknowledges that his remark was unacceptable and apologized to “anyone who may have been offended.”
“Having had to live through a period of integration into another country a number of years ago, I am keenly aware of the negative implications of stereotyping and the significant efforts required to undo its effects,” Marchionne wrote about his move as teenager from Italk to Toronto with his family. “I am proud of my Italian heritage, and nothing I have said should be interpreted as an attempt at minimizing its value. I extend my apologies to anyone who may have been offended by my remark.”
The term is said to be short for “without papers,” according to the Urban Dictionary, and was used as a derogatory reference to Italian immigrants who came to the U.S. in droves largely from Southern Italy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
“I am very happy that we got the apology. I think that is the best we could do at this point in time,” Alfano said.
In 2011, Marchionne apologized for using the term “shyster” to describe the high-interest rates on the loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments that funded Chrysler’s turnaround.
Marchionne is to be honored Friday by the Sons of Italy Foundation, a separate organization from the Italian-American One Voice Coalition. A Chrysler spokeswoman said the timing of Marchionne’s apology is unrelated to the Sons of Italy event.