France President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Fiat may be replaced by Toyota Motors Corp. as a partner at a joint Fiat-PSA/Peugeot-Citroen factory in northern France. Fiat has decided to withdraw from the 2017 plan for a joint venture with PSA for the Sevelnord factory near Valenciennes. In an interview with La Voix du Nord newspaper, Sarkozy said that this factory makes the Peugeot Expert, Citroen Jumpy and Fiat Scudo delivery vans.
He said that there are talks with regards to Toyota’s light commercial vehicles. Sarkozy divulged that the facility in Sevelnord will be “OK." He also said that he had met with PSA CEO Philippe Varin about the plant.
Last January, Varin announced that he wanted a new company partner. La Voix du Nord said that the new partnership will probably save the Sevelnord facility, with its 2,800 workers. Sarkozy didn’t say if Toyota is the only brand that has been in talks with PSA. The joint factory in Kolin in the Czech Republic rolls out the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107 minicars. PSA and Toyota already have a joint factory in Kolin.
A PSA spokeswoman said that the terms of Fiat’s withdrawal haven’t been finalized yet and that nothing definitive with a new partner has been stamped yet. She said that even if there’s a new partner, the company has to guarantee that the Sevelnord site remains as competitive as possible. He mentioned that the plant’s future is being weighed down by French labor taxes.
Toyota, which said that it won’t purchase a stake in Sevelnord, has yet to comment. The auto industry in Europe was challenged by too much capacity as well as a competitive price. Still reeling from the debt crisis, all the major automakers (except Volkswagen) has incurred losses in the region last year.