Fiat Auto SA is in talks with its Italian parent company to secure the rights to produce at least one model for the export market, marketing director Greg Levine said at the weekend.

Fiat Auto SA is in talks with its Italian parent company to secure the rights to produce at least one model for the export market, marketing director Greg Levine said at the weekend.

Fiat Auto SA, Nissan SA and the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa are all investigating opportunities to export fully-built up passenger cars. Last year, Toyota SA became the latest manufacturer to start building passenger cars for export.

The production of an export model requires a large capital investment by the parent company into new production facilities. At present, Fiat shares a production facility with Nissan at Rosslyn.

Talks would not be concluded this year, Levine said, adding that the parent company was focused on implementing a restructuring programme to turn around the unprofitable business.

Despite the difficulties faced by the Fiat Group, Fiat SA was still profitable. However, the parent company's predicament was among several factors that resulted in a slight drop in SA sales last year, Levine said.

Buyers would have been influenced by fears around the viability of the Fiat group worldwide. "But Fiat in SA is a profitable company and has been since its re-entry into the country in 1998," quoted Levine as saying.

Component exports, including mainly catalytic convertors and leather seats, broke through the R1-billion mark last year. "Component export revenue has just about doubled every year for the past four years and is now at about R1,2 billion," Fiat Auto SA’s general manager of marketing, Michael Burkhart, said.

Efforts were well under way to increase the company's turnover and its small share of the domestic market, which was almost stagnant, the report said.

Meanwhile, Fiat Auto SA intends to launch several new imported models to complement its existing entry-level vehicle range. The Fiat Multipla, Fiat Doblo'Cargo, Alfa Romeo 156 GTA and two diesel cars will be added to the manufacturer’s ranges.