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Serbian-built Fiat may come to U.S.

by Bill Cawthon on

Fiat plans to start producing a new car, seen as a potential replacement for the Idea and Lancia Musa, in late spring next year.

The new car will be built in the Fiat Automobili Srbija (FAS) plant in Zastava, Serbia. Fiat Automobili Srbija is a joint venture of Fiat SpA and the Serbian government. If “Zasatava” rings a bell, it’s because that’s where they used to build the Yugo imported by Malcolm Bricklin back in the 1980s.

The model, which bears the code name “L-Zero” will be unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show show next year. It will be a B-segment five-seater, 13.5 to 14 feet long. An extended, seven-seat, version is also planned. Fiat says the first test units should be completed by the end of 2011.

The plant which is about 68 miles from the Serbian capital, Belgrade, can produce up to 250,000 vehicles annually. Fiat will have invested $1.16 billion by the end of the year to clean up and rebuild the old Zastava plant and bring in modern production equipment from Germany, Italy and Japan.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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