Fiat will build two small SUVs at Italian plant, report says
Move could be part of plan to boost exports to N. America
MILAN -- Fiat Group has shelved the idea of closing its Mirafiori car plant in Turin and is considering producing two new SUVs at its factory in Melfi in southern Italy, an Italian daily newspaper said.
The two small SUVs to be built in Melfi plant starting in 2014 will be for the Fiat and Jeep brands. The move is part of Fiat's new business plan centered around ways to boost Italian production for export, Il Messaggero said on Friday.
Fiat said the report was the result of groundless media speculation.
The automaker is due to hold a meeting on Sunday and Monday to decide future manufacturing allocations in Italy.
Closing down its historic Mirafiori plant, sited near Fiat's Turin headquarters, would have reduced expected 2012 losses, the newspaper said.
In a move to boost exports, the company's plant in Cassino, between Rome and Naples, is likely to build the Chrysler 100 model, which is set to replace the Lancia Delta and is aimed mostly at the U.S. market. It will also build the next generation Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which will also be exported to the United States.
The newspaper added that Fiat will make clear that it expects the crisis facing the company to be long and difficult.
Fiat's Italian operations are running at just half capacity while Chrysler Group's are running flat out as its sales boom. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of both companies, is keen to utilize Italian plants to make export vehicles for North American markets.
"Export from Italy is a way to use some of the capacity that is in Italy and the exports can go anywhere," Mike Manley, the head of Chrysler's international operations, said on Oct. 16. Manley declined to elaborate on plans for production in Italy.
Fiat has suspended investments in Italy, reducing spending in Europe by 500 million euros ($655 million) in 2012, and delayed new models as the carmaker heads toward a 700 million euro loss in the region this year.
Fiat Group sales in the EU and EFTA fell 17 percent in the first nine months in a total market down 7.6 percent, according to industry association ACEA.
Luca Ciferri, Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this reportContact Automotive News