Fiat and General Motors are negotiating with several carmakers to sell them versions of a second-generation common-rail turbodiesel engine that the partners will produce together.
"We are talking with some companies that are not part of the GM constellation," said Roberto Imarisio, in charge of diesel engines at the Fiat-GM Powertrain joint venture.
"Right now, we will supply the engine to Fiat and Opel-Vauxhall, but we hope to win some contracts with other makers," he said.
GM partner companies Suzuki and Daewoo are understood to be interested in the 1.3-liter, 16-valve engine for their models destined for Europe.
Imarisio declined to identify the other carmakers involved in discussions.
The common-rail engine is the first new product from the 50-50 joint venture established in July 2000 following the Fiat-GM strategic alliance.
The two companies are investing E400 million for development and tooling. Fiat-GM Powertrain Polska in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, will build the new engine.
Installed capacity at the plant is 2,400 units a day, enabling annual production of more than 500,000 engines a year. About 100,000 will be produced this year. The second-generation common-rail engine will debut in July on Lancia's new Ypsilon and on the restyled Fiat Punto. Opel-Vauxhall's restyled Corsa, due in late August, will also use the engine.
The 1.3-liter unit will deliver 70hp in its initial form, but output and displacement will rise in the future.
The engine - which Fiat calls Multijet - was designed by Fiat Auto and originally planned for a 2001 introduction. But the project was reviewed after the strategic alliance with GM. The result was a two-year delay, but twice the planned production volume.
Others are also sharing small diesels.
PSA and Ford jointly produce a 1.4-liter common-rail diesel. Nissan uses a 1.5-liter diesel developed by Renault in its new Micra.
Nevio di Giusto, head of product development for the Fiat/Lancia/LCV business unit, says compared with competitors' engines of the same power, the new engine has less displacement, is lighter and is the most compact.
First-generation common-rail engines permit up to two injections of fuel per cycle - a pilot and the main one. The Multijet permits up to five injections.
Multijet technology debuted at the Paris show in September 2002 on a 1.9-liter, 16-valve, 140hp engine already used in the Alfa Romeo 147 and 156. But it will soon be extended to other Fiat, Lancia and Opel/Vauxhall vehicles.
When applied to a small engine such as the new 1.3-liter, Fiat says the technology reduces fuel consumption by 10 percent and also achieves lower noise levels. Emission levels also drop by 30 to 40 percent.
Magneti Marelli is supplying Fiat-GM Powertrain with the complete engine management system, marking its entry in the common-rail business. Marelli produces only the engine management control and related software. The fuel pump and injectors are from Robert Bosch.