Fiat and Tata have confirmed that production of the medium-size TL pickup will begin in Cordoba, Argentina, in 2008.

Since 2001, Fiat’s Cordoba plant has produced only engines and gearboxes, to the annoyance of the Argentine government whcih wants to see complete vehicles made.

The pickup will be branded as a Fiat and offered in standard and crew cab versions with two or four-wheel drive, all powered by the Brazilian-made Fiat JTD 2.3-litre, 134 bhp diesel.

It is a strategic vehicle for the strongly contested MERCOSUR market. Until now Fiat has been active only in the light, car-derived pickup segment with its Strada model.

GM, Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi all offer pickups and Tata’s Indian rival Mahindra starts production of a truck line in two months in Manaus, in the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas.

Volkswagen will shortly announce its debut in this medium-size pickup market with a model made at its São Bernardo do Campo plant, in São Paulo State.

Fiat and Tata are jointly investing $20m in the 20,000-units-a-year Argentine factory and exports to Latin America and some European countries are also planned.

Fernando Calmon