TOKYO - Suzuki Motor Corp. is discussing the possibility of buying diesel engines from Fiat Auto S.p.A. for use in India.
The negotiations mark the first potential collaboration involving General Motors' European and Asian alliance partners. GM owns 20 percent of both Suzuki and Fiat.
An order would be a welcome revenue boost for the financially troubled Fiat, which has been a leader in advanced common-rail diesel technology.
Suzuki hopes to use Fiat's diesel engines in compact cars built by India's dominant automaker, Maruti Udyog Ltd., a joint venture between Suzuki and the Indian government.
In May, the Japanese automaker boosted its stake in Maruti to 54.2 percent, from 50 percent.
"We want to install the engines in any model as soon as possible," Sokichi Nakano, Suzuki's executive vice president, said during a recent tour of the company's Hamamatsu plant. He declined to elaborate on details of the possible deal.
Maruti offers only one diesel in a lineup of 10 engines that range from 800cc to 1.6 liters.
A lack of diesels has been "one of the weaknesses of Maruti and Suzuki in India," said Ashvin Chotai, an analyst at DRI-WEFA, a London-based automotive consulting and forecasting company.
Diesel-powered passenger cars accounted for an estimated 14.7 percent of the Indian market in the 2001 fiscal year ended March 31, up from 8 percent in fiscal 1996, according to the Indian office of the Japan External Trade Organization, a semi-governmental body.
The growing trend is based on the economies diesels offer. Diesel fuel in India costs about 60 percent of the price of gasoline.