Fiat to end low-end car production in Italy?

Fiat could announce the plan on June 1st.

The five-year plan Fiat-Chrysler Automobile (FCA) will unveil next month will outline a project to stop low-end passenger car production in Italy, according to sources familiar with the on-going behind-the-scenes talks.

FCA-owned brands currently make the Fiat Punto, the Alfa Romeo MiTo, and the Fiat Panda in Italy. The Punto and the MiTo will get deep-sixed in the coming months, officials have already confirmed, and neither model will spawn a replacement -- at least not in the immediate future. Panda production will shift to Poland, where Fiat currently makes the 500.

Company boss Sergio Marchionne believes it's no longer possible to build profitable small cars in western European countries because wages remain relatively high. FCA will consequently use the extra production capacity in Italy to build more profitable models made by Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Jeep.

The shift would allow these three brands to expand their respective portfolio of models. Maserati is notably expected to announce the long-rumored, sub-Levante SUV next month. Production will take place in Mirafiori, a historic plant on the outskirts of Turin where Alfa Romeo currently manufactures the aging MiTo.

Jeep's entry-level SUV would replace the Panda at Pomigliano, near Naples. It shouldn't cost significantly more to make than the Panda, and it might even share the hatchback's platform, yet it will undoubtedly carry a much higher base price because it's a Jeep and it rides a little bit higher. While nothing is official yet, it doesn't sound like we'll see the yet-unnamed model in the United States due to its size.

Sources told Bloomberg the project hasn't been approved yet, so what you read here might differ from what you'll read when FCA announces its five-year plan on June 1. Stay tuned; we'll bring you the latest when it becomes available.

Photo by Ronan Glon.

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