WAR OF WORDS: Italian media are jumping at the opportunity to feed on the bad blood between Tod’s chief Diego Della Valle and Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne. The mudslinging, initiated earlier this month, continued on Monday when Della Valle defined Fiat’s top management as “improvised and caught with their hands in the cookie jar” (although Italians employ the word “jam”).

During a summit at Milan’s Bocconi University, Della Valle said that “the crisis exists for those that have nothing to sell. These improvised Fiat [people] want to tell us that it’s no longer convenient to make cars in Italy, and tell serious entrepreneurs like us that innovation is no longer possible during a crisis.” The cookie-jar reference was made because Della Valle believes Fiat had plans to abandon Italy and production here.

This story first appeared in the September 27, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Marchionne, who Della Valle previously accused of being “the real problem” of the automotive firm, replied: “We don’t talk about people who make bags.” However, the executive, who was in Turin at an industrial-association meeting, said Fiat was in “healthy and excellent shape,” and that “what Della Valle invests in research and development is not enough even for a section of a car fender.” And he concluded with an expression equivalent to “He should stop being such a pain in the neck.”

To which Della Valle replied, “It’s not Della Valle who needs answers, but all those workers who are waiting for a job, and the government, which has commitments with Fiat.