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Fiat Automobili Srbija, FAS, has officially opened in the industrial city of Kragujevac, raising hopes of a revival of Serbia's ailing economy.
Serbian officials and Sergio Marchionne, head of the Fiat-Chrysler Group, signed their names on a new, white Fiat 500 L, marking the start of production at Fiat Automobili Srbija.
The new car assembly plant started operations in Kragujevac on Monday, three weeks ahead of Serbia's general and local elections, as a joint project of the Serbian government and the Italian carmaker worth 1 billion euro.
At the official opening of the factory, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic hailed Fiat's investment as probably the biggest in the field of production in Serbia in decades.
"When production reaches its full capacity, the company will directly employ 2,500 workers and another 10,000 people indirectly," Cvetkovic noted.
Marchionne said the Fiat 500 L is set for launch in autumn and is designed to appeal to markets on both sides of the Atlantic at a price of around 16,000 euro.
"This factory is more than a modernised factory," Marchionne said. "We want to turn this region into a region that will attract more investment."
The Kragujevac plant, on a site of 1.4 million square metres, is the largest of its kind in Southeast Europe and has a capacity to turn out 300,000 Fiat 500 Ls annually.
Kragujevac Mayor Veroljub Stevanovic said it was an historic day for the town. "We have received a factory that is unique in Europe and the world", he said.
The government and Fiat signed an agreement to constitute the company on September 29, 2008, as a joint business association.
The Turin-based giant holds a 67 per cent share while Serbia has a 33 per cent stake in the company.
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