Chinese EVs could be built in Italy

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the future of Italian automotive production: For months now, there has been a heated standoff between Stellantis and the Italian government, with the latter urging the giant not to abandon Italy, and the former requesting participation (and thus money) from Italy following the French model.

The debacle has not yet concluded, but while Italy may seem to be becoming less profitable for European brands, it could instead be enticing to the Chinese.

Moreover, even Stellantis, which seems to want to redirect the production of Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo elsewhere, could see Mirafiori as suitable for producing affordable electric vehicles for Leapmotor not intended for China, reviving the production hub in Piedmont.

The future of Mirafiori-factory

As reported by Automotive News Europe, Tavares himself, while not confirming anything, could allocate Mirafiori to Leapmotor production, “if it makes sense from an economic point of view.” As mentioned here, Stellantis acquired about 21% of Leapmotor in the fall of 2023, spending €1.5 billion (11 billion DKK), to establish a Dutch joint venture in which it holds 51% of the capital and exclusive rights for export, sales, and production of Leapmotor vehicles outside of China, leveraging its technologies.

Moreover, there are competencies and facilities, even in electric: it is at Mirafiori where the current electric 500 is produced, set to retire in 2026. Its successor will be based on Stellantis’ STLA Small platform and will likely be assembled outside of Italy, in other European countries. Additionally, production of the Maserati Levante will cease by the end of March 2024, with its successor being produced in Cassino. These timings coincide with the start of European Leapmotor production, between 2026 and 2027.

For Mirafiori, this would indeed mean transitioning from premium or luxury vehicles to affordable ones, but also to significant production volumes: up to 150,000 units per year. This, furthermore, would confirm the productive value of Italy, capable of assembling high-quality vehicles with good know-how, enabling the cost-effectiveness sought for electric vehicles, although it is still not clear what Stellantis means by “affordable electric” vehicles.

Even for supercars

It’s not the first time that the Chinese have turned to Italy. There’s also an example, not positive and unsuccessful, coming from FAW: the Silk-Faw joint venture, which had chosen Emilia to produce its electric hypercar, the Silk-Faw S9.

FAW’s idea was to create a futuristic new production hub in Gavasso (near Reggio Emilia, in Emilia-Romagna region), but despite the big promises, it was never realized. The latest news dates back to December 2023 when it emerged that the official website had disappeared, following the announcement of the agreement’s cancellation with the region. However, the company says they are trying to start over from scratch. In any case, despite these unclear issues, the idea of ​​producing in Italy is a recognition of the productive quality of our country, already well prepared for electric, especially for certain categories of cars.

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