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Fiat ships 500L to North America

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Fiat has delivered its first 3,000 Fiat 500L vehicles to the North American market. The vehicles, which are being produced across the Atlantic at the company’s Kragujevac plant in Serbia, were brought by Grimaldi from the port of Bar in Montenegro. The first call was to the port of Baltimore in the US, where 2,500 were unloaded. The remaining 500 vehicles were then delivered to the port of Halifax in Canada.

Production of the North American 500L model began at the Kragujevac plant in March. The plant is expected to produce around 180,000 vehicles in a full year of production. Car carrier Mosolf is bringing the cars by road to Montenegro for the US exports.

Fiat has invested €1 billion ($1.3 billion) in preparing the Kragujevac plant, which is a joint venture with the Serbian government, for production of the 500 and 500L. It has sold 34,000 units of the model in Europe since production began. The Serbian plant only produces the 500 and 500L vehicles.

Asked why it has decided to invest in manufacturing of the 500L in Serbia at a time when Fiat manufacturing in existing Italian plants has dropped to a low of around 40%, a spokesman for Fiat said that this reflected a change in direction for Fiat’s manufacturing in Europe. The carmaker has a different plan for production in Italy, according to Fiat, that will focus on the production of premium brands including Alfa Romeo, Jeep and Maserati, for both European and further export markets.

Fiat’s plants in Poland, Serbia and Turkey will now be producing medium range vehicles with a tighter profit margin because of the lower labour and production costs associated with countries outside the European Union. The Tychy plant in Poland makes the 500 and produced its millionth model in April.

The Fiat 500L is not being produced at any Fiat-Chrysler plants in the US a spokesman for the company told Automotive Logistics News because all plants there were at near full capacity. Even if there was available capacity in the region the spokesperson said the retooling required for a 500L platform would be too significant.

However, the 500 model is made at Fiat-Chrysler’s plant in Toluca, Mexico.