MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's largest carmaker Fiat FIA.MI opened its first plant in China on Thursday dedicated to producing vehicles for the local market, starting with its new Viaggio saloon car.
The plant, based in Hunan province, is the latest development in a 5 billion yuan ($786.73 million) joint-venture between Fiat and GAC, China's sixth largest auto manufacturer.
Fiat' chief executive Sergio Marchionne met with representatives of Hunan and Guandong provinces to unveil the 730,000 square-meter plant, which is to produce 140,000 Viaggios a year.
The move is important for Fiat, which also controls U.S. auto maker Chrysler, because both companies have been latecomers to the booming Chinese car market.
The Viaggio shares a platform with the Dodge Dart, a compact car being launched by Chrysler in the United States, as well as with Fiat's Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
Fiat's shares were down 1 percent at 3.65 euros by 0840 GMT on Thursday, in line with similar falls in the Italian market index .FTMIB and the Stoxx Europe 600 automotive sector index .SXAP.
($1=6.3554 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Philip Baillie; Editing by Greg Mahlich