TURIN -- Fiat will transfer all Torque engine production from its company headquarters in Mirafiori to South America.
Fiat-GM Powertrain (FGP) officials have told Italian unions that production of the 1.6-liter four-cylinder Torque gasoline engine will be moved to Argentina, where emission standards are not as strict as in Europe.
Italian metalworkers union FIOM fears the end of engine production in Mirafiori is just a step toward shutting down the plant's powertrain operations.
"About 70 percent of FGP's area in Mirafiori is currently unused," said FIOM spokesman Claudio Stacchini. "Ten years ago, this area was employing 7,000 people. Now we are down to 1,700 people, of which 500 at high risk."
Fiat says it would cost too much to upgrade the aging engine to meet tougher European tailpipe standards that take effect in 2005.
Fiat's Doblo, Stilo and Multipla models and the Lancia Lybra use the Torque engine, which will be replaced by the more modern 1.6-liter Ecotec engine built by FGP in Bochum, Germany, and in Szentgotthard, Hungary.
Fiat's Palio, Siena, Strada, Stilo and Doblo models that are built in Brazil will have the Argentinian-built Torque engine.
About 1,200 people work on the Mirafiori factory's production line that makes the C514 transmission. It is used on all Fiat and Lancia vehicles equipped with the 1.1- and 1.2-liter FIRE gasoline engines.
To save the 500 engine-assembly jobs, FGP told unions it plans to increase production of the C514 transmissions at Mirafiori by next spring. FGP will reduce production of the transmissions at its plant in Bursa, Turkey, to compensate.
FGP officials won't say how many transmissions the Mirafiori plant produces now or how many it will produce as a result of the added volume.