Italy looking to lure other carmakers besides Stellantis (update)

The Italian government has approached the booming Chinese car manufacturer BYD to build a car plant in the country and confirmed having contact with Tesla and other carmakers. The Meloni government wants to halt the monopoly of Stellantis in that field and has contacted several other manufacturers to come and produce in Italy.

“Several carmakers may come to Italy where unusually only one manufacturer, Stellantis, makes cars, Italian Minister for Enterprises Adolfo Urso said Tuesday, commenting on reported interest from Chinese e-carmaker BYD.

“We have had talks with producers from several countries, not just eastern ones, but western ones too,” Urso told the Lower House’s industry committee amid reported interest from Chinese e-car maker BYD in making vehicles in Italy.

BYD

One of the contacted carmakers is BYD. “We had some contacts about the question,” declared Michael Shu, CEO of BYD Europe, at the ongoing Geneva Motor Show. “The necessity to have another plant in Europe depends entirely on our sales here. It’s far too early to make a decision.”

At a much smaller motor show in Geneva, BYD was one of the highlights, presenting no less than eight new cars from its core brand or its new luxury subsidiary, Yangwang.

Recently, BYD decided to build a car plant in Hungary next to the existing plant where it assembles electric buses. The new plant should be operational in two or three years. According to a spokesman of BYD in France, the French government had also approached BYD to come and build a plant in France, as did Germany and Poland, but BYD preferred Hungary because of the already existing bus plant.

Tesla and others

About possible contacts with the American car manufacturer Tesla, Urso said: “A German city (Brandenburg) rejected a plan for the large-scale expansion of Tesla’s European assembly plant. This will certainly lead to a decision by the group”.

With regards to Tesla, he said talks had been ongoing “for months,” and the responses they had had from Elon Musk’s company had been “very positive” while stressing that it is “a process that requires prudence”.

Urso continued: “Italy has made a late start with this policy of attracting foreign investments; we have only one car manufacturer, but, in a short period of time, we have been able to reverse the trend and get the government seen with renewed interest.”

“The interested producers are car companies that, at the moment, do not produce in Europe but are looking at our market with interest and are aware that we will have to protect the internal market from the competition with trade measures, as the United States is doing, and with industrial measures.”

Urso added that three Chinese auto producers had come to Italy to meet government officials and view possible sites for factories after a ministerial delegation visited China in October.

Stellantis under pressure

Minister Urso was already thinking about a second car manufacturer in his country when he was discussing state subsidies with Stellantis. He wants the car production in Italy to turn around 1 million cars annually.

Stellantis, the car manufacturing group of which many Italian brands are part (Fiat, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia…), increased its production in Italy by 9.6% last year, producing 752,000 vehicles. “If our group can maintain this growth rhythm, we will reach the 1 million target very rapidly, affirmed Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares. “But if we would have an avalanche of Chinese car manufacturers coming to produce their cars in Europe, I don’t think this would help us much,” he warned.

Urso said on Wednesday that Stellantis has changed its tune after CEO Carlos Tavares sparked an alarm by saying some of the group’s plants might be threatened without major subsidies to make electric cars. Tavares subsequently said the Italo-Franco-US carmaker needed all its Italian factories.

“The group’s narrative has changed a little with the last few days’ declarations, but it is not enough for us,” Urso told the Lower House’s industry committee. “We are a government that looks at deeds, without prejudice for anyone, and with the desire to implement the industrial policy that has been absent”.

He added that he was hopeful of reaching a deal by the summer with Stellantis to increase the number of cars produced in Italy to take it above the threshold of one million a year.

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