Fiat Coughs and Wheezes at German Campaign Barb

A Fiat -- not a Punto. And maybe not broken.

A Fiat -- not a Punto. And maybe not broken.


Fix It Again Tony! For many in the English-speaking world, that is what Fiat, the name of the Italian carmaker, stands for. And in Germany, Fiat's reputation was no different. But the car company this week is vociferously protesting after German politician Rainer Brüderle of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) used Fiat as an analogy to highlight the number of blunders made by Social Democratic chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück.

"The more than 8,000 employees of the Fiat Group in Germany feel insulted by the backwardness displayed by the (FDP)," the company said in a statement on Tuesday evening. "Whereas the Italian automobile industry has long since improved upon the prejudices of the past, (Brüderle) simply grabs for the club of populism."

Brüderle's comment came during the course of a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, the final one prior to the Sept. 22 general election. The floor leader for the FDP, Brüderle was attacking Steinbrück for his claim, repeated in Sunday evening's debate, that Chancellor Angela Merkel had violated her oath of office by not protecting German citizens from surveillance by the US intelligence agency NSA.

He then took a step further and fired a barb at Steinbrück himself. "You breakdown as often as a Fiat Punto and act as though you were a top-flight BMW," he said, somewhat awkwardly. It was likely a reference to the numerous times in this campaign that Steinbrück has put his foot in his mouth.

Either way, Fiat -- which in Germany is said to stand for "Fehler in allen Teilen" or "Problems with all parts" -- was unimpressed. Though Brüderle probably won't mind so much. FDP voters are more likely to drive BMWs than Fiats anyway.

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