BUDAPEST -- Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. and Italy's Fiat will shortly sign a memorandum of understanding for the joint development of a sports utility vehicle (SUV), the two firms said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement, released in Budapest, said that production of the car, based on the new Suzuki A-segment platform, would begin in the second half of 2005 at Suzuki's Hungarian plant in Esztergom, about 60 km north of Budapest.
The memorandum will be signed by Suzuki Chairman CEO Osamu Suzuki and FIAT Auto S.p.A. President-CEO Giancarlo Boschetti.
The new SUVs will be produced as a five-door version, with either a petrol or diesel engine.
FIAT and Suzuki will distribute the new SUVs independently through their own dealership networks.
The two companies are currently holding a press conference.
Earlier in the day Suzuki said it planned to boost annual output at its Hungarian car plant to 200,000 units by 2005 from this year's planned 88,000 units.
The announcement was made at the plant in Esztergom, where Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy and Osamu Suzuki jointly launched the production of Suzuki's new model Ignis.
"To achieve this (output) target we plan to invest an additional 60 billion forints ($264.7 million) in our plant this year and in 2004," Suzuki told a news conference there.
Ignis is a cross between a passenger car and an SUV. From the autumn of next year, Suzuki also plans to start producing its Concept S model in Hungary, which was presented last year in Paris.
Suzuki is one of the largest foreign investors in Hungary, with 2002 net revenues of almost 150 billion forints. It employs more than 1,600 people in Hungary, and plans to create an additional 250 jobs in the next two years.
The Japanese car maker, which launched production in Hungary 10 years ago, has a leading share in Hungary's car market and is one of the country's biggest exporters, with export sales exceeding 85 billion forints last year.