TURIN - Magneti Marelli plans to enter the fast-growing market for common-rail diesel fuel injection systems.
The Fiat-owned supplier will deliver fuel management systems for a new Fiat common-rail diesel engine beginning in 2002 and will offer the units to other carmakers.
The new engine will be built at Fiat's existing engine plant in Bielsko Biala, Poland. Fiat and its new partner General Motors are investing about E300 million to refurbish the plant. The engines will be used in both Fiat group and GM's Opel/Vauxhall cars.
Fiat, which owns 70 percent of Magneti Marelli, claims the new common-rail diesel system, called 'MultiJet,' is cleaner, quieter and more powerful than current common-rail systems.
Magneti Marelli developed the industry's first common-rail diesel system in the mid-1990s along with Fiat Auto and the Fiat Research Center. But Fiat sold the patents to Bosch and Magneti Marelli missed out on the boom in the new technology.
This time, Fiat and Magneti Marelli are keeping the patents and may offer the system to other suppliers for production under license.
Magneti Marelli is already the world's second-largest supplier of gasoline fuel-injection systems behind Bosch. Now it aims to become a major supplier of direct-injection diesel systems, too, alongside such competitors as Bosch, Siemens and Delphi.
Compared with the first-generation common-rail system - the so-called UniJet system that had two fuel injection points - the MultiJet features multiple fuel injections. Although the same amount of fuel is burned inside the cylinder, it is injected in batches for more gradual combustion, and for a 30-40 percent reduction in emissions.
Fiat claims the MultiJet meets Euro IV emission standards without the need for a catalytic converter - even with the current high levels of sulfur in diesel fuel.
Magneti Marelli will make the complete electronic control unit - the key element of the MultiJet diesel. To complete the engine management system, it will buy fuel injectors and high-pressure pumps from Bosch.
Conversion of the Bielsko Biala plant is the first result of Fiat and GM's newly-united powertrain operations in Europe. General Motors bought 20 percent of Fiat Auto earlier this year and Fiat Auto acquired 5.1 percent of GM.
The plant - which now builds the ancient 899cc Fiat engine - will produce 450,000 new common-rail engines a year. The new engine - a 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder turbodiesel, will debut in late 2002 in Fiat and Opel/Vauxhall cars. It was first shown last year in Fiat's EcoBasic concept car.
The Bielsko Biala plant was chosen for the project in part because the Polish government included it in a special economic zone. The zone exempts the partners from paying corporate tax for 10 years.