| KRAGUJEVAC, Serbia, April 16
KRAGUJEVAC, Serbia, April 16 Italy's Fiat
on Monday unveiled its new 1-billion-euro production
line in the Serbian industrial town of Kragujevac, where the
carmaker's 500L model will be produced for sale by late 2012.
The opening reprsents a much needed campaign boost for
President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party, the largest party in
Serbia's ruling coalition, ahead of presidential and
parliamentary elections on May 6.
Presenting the first production model of the 500L -- a
larger five-seat version of its Fiat 500 minicar -- Fiat CEO
Sergio Marchionne said the new plant would create some 2,400
jobs once it is fully operational by end-2012.
"Today marks the completion of more than three years of
preparations. This plant is being completely renegineered and
turned into a cutting edge facility to Fiat and Chrysler
standards," Marchionne said.
The joint venture -- 67 percent owned by Fiat and 33 percent
by the Serbian state -- represents a total investment of some 1
billion euros ($1.31 billion).
The new production line will be able to churn out 200,000
Fiat 500L cars per year.
The Kragujevac plant once produced the much-derided Yugo car
and was damaged by NATO bombs during the Kosovo war of 1999.
Since 2009 it has been producing Fiat Punto compacts.
The Serbian government is struggling to maintain growth and
rein in rising unemployment as it heads into an election in May,
with Tadic's Democratic Party trailing in polls behind the
opposition populist Serbian Progressive Party.
($1 = 0.7644 euros)
(Editing by David Cowell)