In a bid to fill some of its empty Italian production capacity, Fiat plans to build a pair of small SUVs at its plant in Melfi starting in 2014, according to Automotive News Europe. With most Chrysler plants running at or near full capacity, the Melfi facility will probably build the new Fiat and Jeep SUVs for export to North America. The final decision could come as soon as this weekend. The new small Jeep is expected to replace the Patriot and/or Compass, which are both produced in Chrysler's Belvidere, Illinois plant.
Automotive News says Fiat sales are at their lowest since the 1970s, and the European auto market as a whole is expected to see its biggest decline since 1993. Exporting a potentially popular model like a new small SUV could help Fiat's bottom line, and the report indicates (from an unnamed source) that Fiat hopes the Italian government will reduce its corporate taxes on exported vehicles, which would make such a move even more beneficial. In addition to these new Fiat and Jeep SUVs, the upcoming Chrysler 100 hatchback could also be built in Italy at Fiat's Cassino plant.