Since its launch at the Bologna Motor Show in 2004 (above), around 20kg has been shaved off VM Motori's RA 630 engine’s dry weight (now cited as 220kg), its emissions updated to Euro V specification, and other detail improvements made.

Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT) has confirmed that it has just bought a 50 percent stake in Italian diesel engine manufacturer VM Motori which provides a curious symmetry with the Italian firm's recent history as it turns its new acquisition into a joint venture between Fiat and its former joint venture partner GM. The news that FPT was to buy the half stake belonging to the U.S.'s Penske Corporation was revealed mid-January and confirmed in a statement issued in Turin today.

Penske originally bought a 51 per cent stake in VM Motori in 2003 from DaimlerChrysler, before completing the purchase of the remaining 49 per cent in 2007. Subsequently that same year, it sold half of the company to General Motors. Russia’s GAZ Group announced plans to purchase Penske’s remaining stake in September 2008, as a complement to their purchase of Britain’s LDV. The intention was to install VM engines in their own GAZelle van and LDV’s Maxus – but the deal fell over in February 2009, a combination of the effects of the global financial crisis and LDV’s abortive relaunch.

Fiat wants the stake to get great control over VM's RA 630 3.0 V6, which will find its first OEM installations in European versions of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Chrysler 300, which will wear a Lancia badge in Europe. VM launched this engine a few years ago but has found it hard to generate any interest, however it has recently been updated to Euro 5 specification and had around 20 kg shaved off its weight. It won't be Fiat’s first encounter with the 630 – prototypes of the Alfa 159 with this engine were tested some years ago, but the car’s failure to set the sales charts alight led to management questioning whether such an installation would prove profitable. In the new 300 and Grand Cherokee, it will serve as a replacement for Mercedes-Benz’s OM642 3.0 V6, the diesel option for the previous 300 and Grand Cherokee – a carryover from Chrysler’s time under Daimler ownership.

This is the latest in a series of strategic engine manufacturing acquisitions where Fiat and its partner Chrysler have acquired somewhat unregarded engines. Chrysler bought out its partners in the World Gasoline Engine (WGE) project, formerly a joint venture between Chrysler (then under Daimler ownership), Mitsubishi and Hyundai, the actual unit based on a powerplant from the Korean firm; however the engine quickly developed a reputation for being noisy and unresponsive. Another flop was the Brazilian-built Tritec engine, originally a joint venture between Chrysler and Rover (and then BMW), but with all partners dissatisfied with the engine's abilities it was acquired by FPT and reworked to become the new E.torQ engine. VM's 630 has similarly been cold shouldered by OEMs and FPT will be hoping that its stake in VM will allow it to have a greater influence over the development of the engine.

FPT announced the acquisition of the Penske stake in a statement issued in Turin today which read: "Fiat Powertrain, a subsidiary of Fiat S.p.A, and Penske Corporation have reached an agreement under which Fiat Powertrain will purchase Penske Corporation’s fifty-percent stake in VM Motori S.p.A. (VM). The agreement is still subject to customary clearance by the appropriate anti-trust competition authorities. VM is a long-established company, headquartered in Cento (Italy), specialized in the design and manufacturing of diesel engines with its own intellectual property. As a consequence of the deal, VM Motori will be co-owned by Fiat Powertrain and GM (which acquired its fifty-percent stake in the company in September 2007). GM and Fiat Powertrain will jointly manage VM, while both shareholders will continue to have ongoing commercial relationships with VM, including engineering services and supply of diesel engines. Existing business relationships between VM Motori and GM as well as other customers, remain unaffected. Through this acquisition Fiat is further enlarging its diesel engines portfolio with state of the art products for different applications and particularly for automotive, such as the newly developed V6 engine."

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