(Correcting to include name of Melfi plant, as per original
story in Italian)
MILAN Oct 31 Fiat's Mirafiori and
Melfi plants will be among the first to be re-tooled for new
models in the Italian carmaker's plan to fix its struggling
European business, and work may begin within weeks, a union
A sharp downturn in Europe has forced Chief Executive Sergio
Marchionne to focus on bolstering the company's European
activities instead of buying more shares in U.S. automaker
Chrysler Group LLC, which it also controls.
Shares in Fiat closed 4.3 percent lower on Wednesday as
investors doubted that a plan by the carmaker to fix its
money-losing European operations by increasing investment in
premium brands Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Jeep would work.
Fiat's revised 2013-2014 plan, presented to unions on
Tuesday, cuts sales targets and pledged increased spending to
shift the focus onto the carmaker's higher-margin brands. It
calls for three new car models to be built in Italy next year,
and six new models in Italy in 2014.
Europe's debt crisis, government spending cuts and high
unemployment have hit consumer budgets and sent demand for cars
plunging, with new car registrations in the region showing their
sharpest contraction in 12 months in September and mass-market
automakers bearing the brunt of the slump.
Fiat did not provide model names or details in the new
product plan, which was being deciphered in bits and pieces by
unions and analysts on Wednesday.
For 2013, the plan shows that Fiat will make four cars: a
new Fiat made outside Italy (probably the seven-door 500L, in
Serbia); a new Alfa Romeo in Italy (probably the 4C sportscar,
in Modena); and two already-announced Maseratis, at its new
Officine Maserati di Grugliasco (OMG) plant in Turin.
In 2014, the company plans to make a new Fiat, which unions
believe could be a sports utility vehicle (SUV), or a new Jeep,
likely to be made at Melfi, where workers making the Punto
compact are sitting at home several days a week on a temporary
Two Alfa Romeos are on the cards for 2014. One may be the
long awaited Giulia sedan, to be made in Cassino, which builds
the Giulietta, the Fiat Bravo and the Lancia Delta, union
The other is a high-end Alfa Romeo, possible a substitute
for the 164, to be made at Mirafiori in Turin, they added.
A new Maserati may be made at Mirafiori in 2014. This is
likely to be the Levante SUV, which was earmarked for Chrysler's
Jefferson North plant in Detroit where it makes the Jeep, said a
union representative who attended the Tuesday meeting.
Given the new models planned for 2014, work at Mirafiori and
Melfi should start in a few weeks, said a union source. Fiat
previously planned to make a small Fiat-branded SUV at the plant
at the end of 2013 and a small Jeep SUV in 2014.
The huge flagship Mirafiori factory, which is almost fully
idled, will instead be twinned with the OMG to make high-end
cars, Marchionne said during the presentation.
LESS CLEAR IN 2015
Visibility in 2015 is dimmer. Fiat aims to make four
Fiat-branded cars outside Italy, of which one outside Europe.
Union sources believe that the Punto and Bravo models will
be progressively shifted out of Italian factories and
transferred to Poland to supply Eastern European markets.
The other Fiats made outside Italy should be Fiat 500s, to
be made in Serbia.
In 2015 the company envisions making three Alfa Romeo models
and two Maseratis, its presentation showed. These cars could be
made at Mirafiori, which would have enough space to accommodate
them as they are likely to be high-end and not mass market cars.
(Reporting by Stefano Rebaudo; Editing by Helen