April 16 - Italy's Fiat unveils its new 1-billion-euro production line in the Serbian industrial town of Kragujevac, where the carmaker's 500L model will be produced for sale by late 2012. Sonia Legg reports.
They won't all be autographed by CEO's and Prime Ministers but the new Fiat 500L model will be made in Serbia. The Italian car maker has just unveiled a 1-billion euro production line in the industrial town of Kragujevac. Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne attended the opening ceremony. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIAT CEO SERGIO MARCHIONNE SAYING: "Translated into the numbers this would mean investments of about one billion euros, production of around 200,000 cars per year once the plant becomes fully operational, and the creation of some 2400 jobs directly in the plant, and about 1,000 jobs by suppliers hopefully by the end of this year." The plant once produced the much-maligned Fiat Yugo and since 2009 it's been making the Fiat Punto. This new model - the 500L is a larger version of the 500 minicar. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIAT CEO SERGIO MARCHIONNE SAYING: "The vehicle will be launched commercially next autumn and we plan to export this model to markets in Europe and overseas, making it one of Fiat's flagship models." The new production line is a joint venture - a third of the funds come from Serbia's government. It's hoping the deal will be a boost at a time when the country is struggling to maintain growth and rein in unemployment. (SOUNDBITE) (Serbian) SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER MINISTER MIRKO CVETKOVIC, SAYING: "We are happy to say that we have a most modern car production facility in the world, and we have a model that will be produced exclusively here in Serbia - brand Serbia will be on a quality car." Fiat has high hopes for its new model and it hopes the new production line won't suffer the same fate as the Fiat Yugo plant in 1999. It was damaged by Nato bombs during the Kosovo war. Sonia Legg, Reuters