Fiat's decision to stop Lancia production at its factory in Termini Imerese, Sicily, in 2011 has led to wild speculation that India's Tata Motors or Mahindra & Mahindra or China's Chery Automobile could buy the plant.
All three companies denied interest, just like Toyota did in 2002 when the future of the factory, which is 40km from the Sicilian capital of Palermo, was last in doubt.
When it comes to Termini, regional and national politicians in Italy try to outdo each other with whispers to the press that they are on the way of finding the solution to save 1,400 jobs in an economically depressed area.
So far, all these whispers had been just wishful thinking, but the Italian press seems fascinated by printing any good news related to Termini, no matter if it's true or false.
So what rumors can we expect in 2010 for the factory?
• Russia's AvtoVAZ will take over the plant. Despite there being no business logic in such a move, "in winter, the weather in Sicily is much better than in Togliatti," a person familiar to the matter said.
• Hyundai-Kia will finally solve the logistic, language and bureaucratic barriers between its two European plants in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, moving everything to Termini. "We will finally talk a single language in Europe," said a person who asked not to be identified because no official announcement has been made.
• Malaysian automaker Proton is talking with Fiat about buying Termini, according to senior officials accompanying an Italian minister on a business trip to the southeast Asian country. "Malaysian investors are welcome in Italy," the minister told reporters.
These scenarios are my invention, but will that stop such headlines appearing in 2010? I doubt it. When it comes to Termini, any baseless rumor is good for a big headline in the Italian media.
The truth is that Fiat said last June that the factory will stop making its sole product, the Lancia Ypsilon, by mid 2011, with production replaced by some other industrial output that has not been specified yet.
This doesn't make a great headline, so we will likely see lots more alleged rescuers heading toward Sicily.