01.10.2008 GUANGZHOU AUTO CONFIRMS PLATFORM TALKS WITH FIAT

ALFA 166

Guangzhou Auto is talking to Fiat about purchasing the redundant Alfa 166 production lines; the Mirafiori, Italy-built Alfa Romeo executive flagship saloon ceased production last year.

FIAT PERLA

The Project 178 'World Car' production in China had focused on the Palio (hatchback), Palio Weekend (estate), Siena (sedan), as well as the Chinese-market specific Perla sedan (which was based on the Siena).

Guangzhou Auto, one of China's less well known automobile manufacturers', has confirmed that it is locked in talks with Fiat Group about buying redundant platforms and technology to further the development of its own-brand car range. Guangzhou Auto, which has joint ventures with Toyota and Honda, manufactured over half-a-million cars last year.

Ms. Zheng, a spokesperson for Guangzhou Auto, has confirmed to the Chinese media that platform discussions are taking place, but without elaborating. Meanwhile Fiat's public relations boss in China, Zheng Xiaoli, has confirmed the on-going talks to China Business newspaper last week, while several weeks ago Fiat's China chief, Paolo Arpellino, told Automotive News Europe: "We have discussed a technical cooperation with Guangzhou Automobile."

The 'technical cooperation' will focus on Guangzhou Auto making platform purchases, with initial talks centring on the 'Project 178' production lines that were closed down when Fiat and Nanjing Auto ended their ill fated joint venture last year. The Project 178 'World Car' production in China had focused on the Palio (hatchback), Palio Weekend (estate), Siena (sedan), as well as the Chinese-market specific Perla sedan (which was based on the Siena). Although outdated, Guangzhou Auto believes that it can modernise this architecture and use it as a springboard to launch itself into this market segment. "As we couldn't cover everything, we can look for opportunities to make use of others firms' technology to combine with ours," says Chairman Zhang Fangyou.

Talks are also underway at the same time for Guangzhou Auto to purchase the redundant Alfa 166 production lines; the Mirafiori, Italy-built Alfa Romeo executive flagship saloon ceased production last year. It has been reported by the media in the last 24 hours that Turin-based Stile Bertone is now working on redesigning the Alfa 166 to fit into Guangzhou Auto's plans for an expanded own-brand model range, while Fiat Group industrial division Comau is working on the re-engineering of the assembly facilities.

Fiat has struggled to find serious partners in China ever since the termination of its joint venture with Nanjing Auto last year. This summer Fiat announced plans to build a diesel engine manufacturing facility at Chongqing, which is also home to Changan Auto and Lifan Auto. Changan Auto, which has an on-going joint venture with Suzuki, will build the Suzuki SX4-based Sedici on behalf of Fiat in China. The Italian carmaker, which re-launched its Chinese dealer network in late August, is also exploring opportunities with Chery Automobile. "Guangzhou Auto is not a bad partner," an insider was reported by Gasgoo as saying. "Although its capacity and sales are now smaller than those of FAW and SAIC, the profit-making capabilities of Guangzhou Auto are extraordinary," they added.
 

2008 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed