ROME: Italian prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi has urged the country's citizens to buy cars produced by Fiat rather than delay purchases because of the credit crisis, a move motivated as much by economics as concern for the automaker's plight.

Speaking to the Italian newspaper il Giornale, Berlusconi said: "Families must continue spending, not cut back."

The alternative, he said, "creates a problem for Fiat and for us if they decide not to replace an old car because of the crisis."

While Berlusconi has already warned that the country's automotive industry is unlikely to receive a financial bail-out, rising unemployment in the sector means the government will have to pay out more to those who are not currently working.

Italian law allows companies to release workers for up to five years if they plan to re-employ them when the economic climate improves, the state paying around 80% of their salary during such conditions.

Data sourced from (Italy); additional content by WARC staff