If you told us a year ago that Fiat was going to sign a deal with the government of Serbia, we'd have laughed. But that was before the country announced that it was accepting tenders for investment in the state-owned automaker Zastava, makers of the famous Yugo (aka Skala 55). The process started back in December when the Serbian government made the announcement, sparking interest from various automakers. But even as recent as last week, the Fiat stance was that it was still considering the proposition. Well, it appears the Italian auto giant has done thinking, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Serbia to establish a joint venture that involves Fiat investing a staggering 700 million euros (!) into Zastava's manufacturing facilities in exchange for a majority stake in the company, known in full as Zavodi Crvena Zastava. The Serbian government, meanwhile, will contribute some 200 million euros through tax incentives and similar measures.

Fiat has revealed that it will use the Zastava plant to produce the upcoming Topolino microcar. The vehicle will be based on the same platform as the 500 and Panda, but even smaller and positioned below either model, and share the same name as the concept car that previewed the new 500 and originally used on the 1936 runabout pictured above. According to reports, the new Topolino will be a compact two-seater measuring just 3150mm (124 inches) in length, slightly longer than the Smart ForTwo at 2692mm (106 inches). A four-seater version is expected to follow, in addition to an upscale version for the Lancia division.

[Source: Automotive News Europe – sub. req'd]