Fiat SpA plans to roll out the full range of its 500L compact this year and make at least 110,000 units for markets in Europe and the U.S. at its Serbian plant, the head of the Balkan factory said.
Trekking, an off-road version of the 500L model, and a right-hand steering wheel for U.K. buyers are expected in the first half, followed by a U.S. version in the second part of this year, Antonio Ferrara, the head of Fiat’s Serbian venture, said in an interview in Belgrade yesterday. A longer option that seats seven or may serve as a pickup, should follow.
“We are going to launch all these versions to keep the level of attention on the car high,” Ferrara said.
The Serbian plant, Fiat’s newest facility in the world, has already made almost 30,000 500Ls since production began in July. The factory’s output should help Serbia return to growth in 2013 and boost exports, following an estimated 1.9 percent contraction in 2012, the country’s second recession in three years.
The Italian carmaker that controls Chrysler Group LLC expects a 700 million-euro ($935 million) loss in 2012 in Europe, where car sales are at almost a two-decade low. Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said yesterday industry sales in Europe may recover in the second half of the year.
“The U.K. market is increasing, the German and the Italian markets are steady, but every 15 days we check the trend and are totally ready to adjust” volume and versions, Ferrara said. “We’ve done all the investment necessary to have this flexibility” at the Kragujevac plant that Fiat formed as a venture with the Serbian government in 2008.
The factory in central Serbia already plans some overtime work next month “but we need to be sure demand is consolidating” before any increase in Fiat Automobili Srbija’s workforce of 2,500, Ferrara said.
Engines that will be available will range from a 0.9 liter gasoline model to a 1.6 liter diesel motor, along with those fueled by natural gas and propane, he said.
FAS will also start making Punto subcompacts again this year after suspending the model in 2011 when it was preparing for 500L, Ferrara said. Output is planned at about 1,500 units a year, “just to meet the local demand” that persists for the small car that retailed for less than 7,000 euros, he said.
With assistance from Tommaso Ebhardt in Milan.