Fiat is planning to invest US$1bn in Latin America by the end of 2008 to help expand its market share from the current 12% to 15%.

According to the Financial Times, Fiat's regional head, Cledorvino Belini, said the company plans to focus the investment on the Belo Horizonte plant in Brazil, although other countries, including Mexico, will also receive investment.

Brazilian automotive industry newsletter, AutoData, said that Belini is aiming to expand Fiat's plant in Argentina, before capacity in Brazil is increased. The Argentine facility currently produces transmissions and engines.

The figure is double the investment made in the 2003-2005 period.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Belini said he would like to see market share increase to 15% by 2010, but in the medium term would settle for a lower figure.

AutoData said that Belini is expecting Fiat's production in Brazil to reach 500,000 units in 2006. This figure includes 100,000 cars for export while 95% of cars destined for the domestic market will be flexible fuel.

Fiat has managed to maintain exports despite the increase in value of the real. For the future Belini is hoping to redirect some exports to Mexico, which currently only takes 5,000 cars from Brazil. "We are planning the shipment of 50,000 units, from Brazil and Italy, by 2010," he said. This will come from targeted sales growth in Mexico. Fiat is currently increasing the number of dealers there from 11 to 45 by 2010.

Belini also said that it is considering a partnership with India's Tata Motors in South America.