Japan-based Suzuki Motor Corp. and Fiat S.p.A. are in discussions about expanding their partnership even if Fiat’s competitor Volkswagen AG owns 19.9 percent of Suzuki, two insiders told Automotive News Europe.
The two companies have industrial partnerships since 2001 wherein Suzuki manufactures the Sedici compact SUV for Fiat in Hungary as well as produces Fiat diesel engines under license in India.
According to the two insiders, Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki offered to produce the next generation Sedici for Fiat in a meeting with Sergio Marchionne, Fiat’s head, in Turin on May 25.
Also present in the meeting was Fiat chairman and controlling shareholder John Elkann. The production of the existing Sedici, which was launched in 2005, will end in 2013. The production plan of Fiat that extends until 2014 does not include a replacement for the model.
This model is a rebadged variant of the Suzuki SX4, which is Europe's top-selling small SUV. Fiat is planning to replace the Sedici with a small SUV by 2013 by Chrysler's Jeep unit and code-named B-Jeep. However, no decision has been made, according to a Fiat source.
In addition, Fiat has a contract with Suzuki to purchase 20,000 vehicles annually of the Sedici. In 2007, the sales of Sedici peaked to 31,855 units. However, the sales have been steadily declining, down to 16,505 units last year based on Jato Dynamics market researchers. Sales for Suzuki SX4 peaked at 50,354 units in 2008 but dropped to 37,517 last year.