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 |  Dec 21 2009, 12:09 PM

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Fiat’s plan to gobble up all of Chrysler has taken its first step forward since the Italian automaker rescued the struggling America manufacturer from bankruptcy liquidation. Currently Fiat owns 20 percent of Chrysler and has the ability to take a 35 percent share of the company if it meets three specific criteria: building a fuel-efficient engine in the United States, building a 40-mpg car in the U.S. and expanding Chrysler’s reach internationally. Once those goals have been achieved, it can also purchase up to 51 percent of Chrysler.

According to a recent report by Automotive News, Fiat will build the 92-hp, 1.4-liter four-cylinder motor for the 500C model in Dundee, Michigan. Fiat will use $179 million to revamp the former Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance plant to do so. Rather than build the 500C in the U.S., however, the engines will then be shipped to Mexico where the 500C will be assembled, with half of the cars coming back to the U.S. and the other half headed to Brazil.

With one of the three criteria now slated to be met, it seems like Fiat most certainly has its sights set on complete control of Chrysler. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has made it clear in the past that he wants Fiat to be a global player and a secure foothold in the U.S. marketplace is a necessary step in achieving that goal.

Now we’ll just await news of a U.S.-built 40-mpg car and of Chrysler’s overseas expansion plans.

[Source: Automotive News via Autoblog]