Fiat to produce 5 new models in next 2 years

Automaker plans to expand minicar lineup

A variant of the Fiat Panda would have off-road type characteristics to be able to compete with SUVs, according to Corriere della Serra.

MILAN (Reuters) -- Fiat plans to produce five new models in the next two years as it seeks to return to profitability in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, the company said today.

A spokesman for the company confirmed an interview in the daily Corriere della Serra in which Alfredo Altavilla, the group's head of the EMEA region, said the automaker would produce four models of the 500 minicar family and one new version of its Panda minicar.

"We are redesigning the DNA of the Fiat brand with a clear strategic objective to position it in the premium segment of the market," Altavilla told the paper.

"To do this, we are focusing on two of our car families which have had the greatest success: the 500 and the Panda."

Altavilla said the plan was part of the company's objective to return to profitability in the EMEA region in 2015.

The paper gave no indication where the five new models would be manufactured, but said the new Panda would have more off-road type characteristics to be able to compete with SUVs.

Altavilla also said Fiat would within a few weeks finalize an important collaboration in Russia, but did not give any details.

Recovery in the European car sector is expected to be long and slow as unemployment remains high and bank lending weak.

At the Frankfurt auto show last week, European carmakers warned the industry still needed to close more factories and cut more jobs to stanch losses at some manufacturers and ease price pressures for all automakers.

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