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Fiat shareholders approve historic split

TURIN, Sept 16 – Fiat shareholders on Thursday approved the Italian auto giant\’s plan to separate its car and non-car making activities as part of a drive to increase its global clout.

John Elkann, Fiat\’s 34-year old president, thanked shareholders for their approval, saying it was a "historical" event that "gives birth to two Fiats."

The operation will leave a car-only Fiat with its own brand plus Ferrari, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and its components and motor activities, while its truck-making and agricultural and construction machine makers will be part of a new company called Fiat Industrial.

The spin-off, announced in April and set to take effect on January 1, 2011, will "resolve one of the strategic issues that over the past years has been a thorn in Fiat\’s side," Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne said before the approval.

The car and non-car activities have different strategies, markets and capital needs, Marchionne said.

The maverick chief executive is positioning the group for the global fray as major world automakers seek new alliances, a year and a half after orchestrating a tie-up with near-bankrupt US automaker Chrysler, of which Fiat now owns 20 percent.

Marchionne has said the two companies combined should produce six million vehicles by 2014, up from four million today.

The Italian-Canadian, credited with rescuing Fiat from the brink of collapse, became Chrysler\’s chief executive in the deal, under which Fiat contributed its small-car and green technology and the US carmaker opened the door to its sprawling distribution network.

Fiat, which assumed operational control of Chrysler in June 2009, will see its stake rise to 35 percent in two years, with an option to improve that to a controlling share once the US firm pays back its debt to the US government.

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