Nanjing Fiat currently produces three models: the Palio Weekend, the Siena and the Perla (above), a larger more upmarket aimed saloon closely based on the Siena which was developed in China, the first in-house project to have been undertaken by Nanjing Fiat.

Although Fiat has been bought out of its 50 percent stake in Nanjing Fiat this week, the merged SAIC-Nanjing entity is expected to continue production of the three Fiat models it currently assembles. The joint venture currently produces three models: the Palio Weekend (estate), the Siena (saloon) and the Perla, a larger more upmarket aimed saloon closely based on the Siena which was developed in China, the first in-house project to have been undertaken by Nanjing Fiat.

The news that, following the merger between Nanjing Auto and its larger automotive rival SAIC, these three models will continue in production comes from a report in Automotive News Europe yesterday which suggests that the cars will in future be built without using the Fiat name or badge. There is a recent similar precedent: when Mazda withdrew from a joint venture with FAW Haima, the Chinese firm de-badged the cars but continued to assemble the models under its own name and tap into the Mazda supplier base.

According to ANE: "Three suppliers to the former joint venture, Nanjing Fiat Auto, confirmed last week that they have not received notification to cease shipping parts to the assembly plant." Asked whether his company will send the usual quota of parts to Nanjing Fiat next month, a supplier executive told ANE: "I suppose so." An executive at another supplier confirmed his company will definitely continue supplying the same quantity of parts next month, added ANE.

It is expected that the Nanjing Fiat factory will continue to produce the three Fiat models as normal for a couple of months to fulfil a dwindling number of outstanding dealer orders. Sales of Fiat models have plummeted this year as the joint venture unravelled: just over 15,000 were sold by the end of the year to November, around half the number that were sold during the same period last year.

The merged SAIC/Nanjing will use the Nanjing Fiat supplier based (including Fiat) to build the cars under its own brand name with Fiat expected to sell the rights to build the Palio, Siena and Perla in China. Asked by ANE to respond to the speculation that the rights to the Palio, Siena and Perla would be sold, the Fiat Group China spokesperson Zhen Xiaoli said: “No comment.” These models don't form any part of Fiat's future plans to build cars in China, most likely with Chery Automotive, which is expected to focus on the Grande Punto and Linea, as well as the Bravo.

In a statement issued on Boxing Day the Fiat Group committed itself to supporting customers who have already purchased cars and alluded to on going collaboration in the 'components' sector (as well as with commercial vehicles where a more successful joint venture with Iveco is expected to continue unaffected). "To assure that the needs of over 160,000 customers in China are covered, the company will continue to provide technical support to the network for as long as necessary," read the statement issued in Turin on 26th December. "As in the past, the network will provide spare parts and after-sale support at the highest standards. Fiat will always guarantee continuous, quality assistance in China for all of its existing and future products. Although their collaboration in the passenger cars sector has come to an end, the long-standing cooperation between the two groups will continue in the commercial vehicle and components sectors, to the great satisfaction of both partners, and will be sustained by the ongoing structural evolution of the Chinese automotive industry," the Fiat Group statement concluded.

“This decision gives us total freedom of action to concentrate on the restructuring of our automotive business in China," said Sergio Marchionne on 26th December. “NAC remains a very important partner of ours in the commercial vehicle sector, through the joint-venture with Iveco, which has generated mutual satisfaction over the years. Furthermore, following the merger that has been announced today between NAC and SAIC, which is in turn an important partner of the Fiat Group in heavy commercial vehicles, agricultural machinery and components, our businesses in China will further be strengthened.

“The Chinese market is a key element of the Fiat Group project for worldwide expansion of its automotive activities. In 2008 we will initiate large-scale importation of new models to be sold by our commercial network, which we continue to support and with which we are working tirelessly to offer customers top-quality products and services," Marchionne continued. "This will further improve our familiarity with the Chinese market in view of finalising our partnership with Chery Automobiles, one of the biggest car makers in China. This will permit the opening of a new and important phase in development of our industrial and commercial activities in China.”

© 2007 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed