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Stellantis chief Tavares warns of tough year ahead

FILE PHOTO: Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares holds a press conference ahead of visiting the Sevel automaker's plant, in Atessa

By Giulio Piovaccari

MILAN (Reuters) -Carmaker Stellantis faces a challenging year with increasing pricing pressures, its chief executive warned on Tuesday before shareholders voted to approve his bumper 2023 salary package.

Having had to contend with high raw material costs and strikes over pay in North America last year, the company is now operating in an increasingly competitive market, CEO Carlos Tavares said.

"We see that the market is being more and more competitive in terms of pricing. We cannot ignore that," he told the group's annual general meeting (AGM).

In a consultative-only vote, on Tuesday about 70% of Stellantis shareholders voted in favour of the 2023 remuneration report for senior managers.

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Total remuneration for Tavares rose 56% to up to 36.5 million euros ($38.8 million) including 13 million euros in long-term incentives linked to specific performance targets.

That salary has drawn criticism at a time when the Franco-Italian automaker is seeking to cut costs and reduce its workforce as part of its transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

The Portuguese CEO, who has made Stellantis one of the most profitable companies in the industry, had defended his compensation while speaking at an event in France on the eve of Tuesday's AGM, drawing comparisons with soccer players or Formula 1 drivers.

"Ninety percent of my salary is determined by the results of the company, so this proves that the company's results are apparently not too bad," he told reporters.

The carmaker this year agreed voluntary redundancy packages for about 3,000 workers, representing 7.5% of its Italian workforce. It also announced layoffs for 600 workers on time contracts in France and for 400 salaried employees in the United States.

Stellantis, brands of which include Fiat, Peugeot and Jeep, has rewarded employees worldwide with a total of 1.9 billion euros for the group's performance in 2023.

The company's investors approved Tavares' remuneration package last year but rejected it at the 2022 shareholder meeting in the run-up to the French presidential elections, when both President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen strongly and openly criticised Tavares's package.

France has a 6% stake in the carmaker and is represented on its board.

($1 = 0.9413 euros)

(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari in MilanAdditional reporting by Dominique Patton in ParisEditing by Gavin Jones, Keith Weir and David Goodman)