TURIN – Fiat Auto and Tata Motors may export SUVs and pickups to Europe from Argentina.
The Italian carmaker and Tata, its new Indian-based industrial partner, are holding talks about restarting vehicle production at Fiats 9-year-old factory in Cordoba, Argentina.
If both parties agree, a joint venture between the two companies would start building the Tata Cliffrider large pickup and an SUV derivative at Cordoba, which is about 700km northwest of Buenos Aires.
Most vehicles would be for Argentina and other South American markets, but some could be exported to Europe, say Fiat sources.
Diesel models exported to Europe likely would be powered by Fiats new 157hp, 3.0-liter common-rail diesel engine, which debuted in May on the new Ducato large commercial van.
Fiat opened the 120,000-unit-a-year Cordoba plant to build the Siena sedan in 1997.
Car production stopped five years ago after new-car sales slumped during an economic crisis in Argentina. Production had fallen to 31,000 units in 2001 from 95,700 when the plant opened. Currently the factory makes engines and other auto components.
Fiat and Tata are eager to widen their industrial alliance.
Late last month, the automakers agreed to create a joint venture to start car and powertrain production in Fiats Indian plant of Ranjangaon by late 2007.
The plant, which is near Pune, 200km east of Mumbai, will build the Fiat Grande Punto hatchback and sedan versions and a new model for Tata that likely will be the successor to the Indica small car.
The factory will build Fiats 1.3-liter common-rail diesel engine and transmissions for Fiat and Tata for export and for domestic production.
The Ranjangaon plant is expected to reach full capacity of 100,000 vehicles and 250,000 engine and transmissions a year by 2010.
Fiat completed the Ranjangaon plant in 1999 to build the Palio small-segment car but production never started because of a slump in Indias auto market.
Last year Indias new-car sales were a record 1,143,161 units. To boost its sales in the country, Fiat quickly needs new products to add to its aging Palio hatchback and Palio-derived Petra sedan.
By 2010, Fiat wants a 5 percent market share in India, up from the 0.15 percent it achieved last year when it sold just 1,800 units in the country.
Tata, which is Indias second largest carmaker behind Suzuki, needs additional capacity to relieve pressure at its plant in Pune, which is operating at its full 225,000 units a year capacity.
Tata also wants to expand in South America. Currently it has no local production there.
You may e-mail Luca Ciferri at [email protected]