Spain's struggling national car company Santana and Fiat-owned truck maker Iveco are set to launch a new SUV to replace Santana's poor-selling Anibal model, Santana's communications director Jesus Diez del Corral told just-auto on Friday.

The Iveco Massif will be a "bigger and more modern" version of the Anibal, of which Santana will make the last units this summer, del Corral said.

The first Massifs will roll out in March as three and five-door models powered by 146hp engines. Santana will later launch 175hp models. It hopes to make up to 3,000 Massifs this year and 5,000 units in the medium term.

The Massif will be first sold to consumer and military markets in Italy and then in Spain. In a subsequent phase, Santana will launch the car in South America and then worldwide.

Under the Santana-Iveco joint venture struck last summer, the two companies were supposed to make up to 15,000 "new" Anibals. Santana was in fact referring to the Massif, whose name had not yet been picked.

The Massif is an 'oxygen tank' for Santana which has been struggling to revive its business from years of losses after losing several manufacturing contracts with Suzuki.

"Santana will make the car and Iveco will sell it," Del Corral said. "If all goes well, we hope to turn a profit this year."

Seville-based Santana, majority owned by the Andalusian government, will produce the Massif in its Linares, Seville, factory which also makes the Suzuki Jimny and the Santana 300 and 350 SUVs, which are derived from the Suzuki Vitara.

Ivan Castano