PARIS (Reuters) -- Toyota Motors Corp. may replace Fiat as a partner at a joint Fiat-PSA/Peugeot-Citroen factory in northern France, President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
Fiat is withdrawing from its joint venture with PSA for the Sevelnord factory near Valenciennes in 2017. The factory builds the Peugeot Expert, Citroen Jumpy and Fiat Scudo delivery vans.
"My understanding is that there's a deal in discussion with Toyota for light commercial vehicles," Sarkozy told La Voix du Nord newspaper in a report published on Wednesday.
"Sevelnord will be OK," the French president was quoted as saying, before adding that he had discussed the plant with PSA CEO Philippe Varin.
In January, Varin said he was seeking a new partner for the factory.
La Voix du Nord said that the Sevelnord facility, which employs 2,800 workers, was likely to be saved by the new partnership.
The French president did not say whether Toyota was the only potential Sevelnord partner in talks with PSA.
PSA and Toyota already have a joint factory in Kolin in the Czech Republic that builds the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107 minicars.
"There's nothing definitive with any new partner," a PSA spokesman said on Wednesday, adding that the terms of Fiat's withdrawal had yet to be finalized.
Even if a new partner is found, "we would need to ensure that the Sevelnord site is as competitive as possible alternatives", the spokesman said. He cited French labor taxes as a factor weighing on the plant's future.
Toyota, which has ruled out buying a stake in Sevelnord, declined to comment.