Fiat do Brasil has begun building a vehicle development centre in Betim city, Minas Gerais state, near its car factory, writes Rogério Louro.

Fiat is investing 400 million reais (about $US130 million) to build the centre in Brazil.

"With the vehicle development centre in Brazil we will be more agile creating new cars and we will be more self-sufficient from Italy. The centre will be the most modern in Latin America and we will have everthing to completely develop a car", said Fiat do Brasil director of engineering Appio Aguiari.

The development centre will have a design studio, engineering laboratories and prototype and experimental model shops. Fiat expects all departments to be operational in 2006.

"We will be able to develop a vehicle 100% in Brazil and expect to do so in the medium term," Appio Aguiari added.