Sources have told the Reuters news agency that creditor bank Mediobanca and Fiat's controlling Agnelli family plan to split the sporty Alfa Romeo marque out of the core Fiat Auto unit and create a luxury group under Ferrari-Maserati and its successful chief executive Luca di Montezemolo.

According to Reuters, the sources said Fiat was talking to Volkswagen about bringing the assets into a luxury partnership though Volkswagen and Fiat spokesmen declined to comment.

Reuters said Volkswagen's Audi arm and Maserati said earlier they were in talks about "technical cooperation."

Reuters noted that Volkswagen also owns the Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti brands but cited analysts saying they doubted the German group wanted to add to them.

Reuters said that, if the luxury brand deal went through, it could threaten the Fiat group's option to sell Fiat Auto to GM.

GM spokeswoman Toni Simonetti declined to comment to Reuters on whether Fiat's put option would be cancelled out if Alfa Romeo was plucked out of Fiat Auto.

"Alfa Romeo is part of Fiat Auto. We have an agreement, we have a 20% interest in Fiat Auto. Basically, there would have to be some engagement by General Motors to agree to that before it could happen," the spokeswoman told Reuters.

Italian Industry Minister Antonio Marzano, who spoke to the head of the Agnelli family holdings Umberto Agnelli on Tuesday, told Reuters the government had not been informed of any potential deal with Volkswagen.

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