Fiat kept up the pressure on General Motors ahead of a key meeting on Tuesday, reportedly saying the US group would not be able to shut down the Italian car maker if it ends up having to buy it.

Reuters noted that Fiat and GM executives were due to meet at about 1330 GMT in Zurich, little more than a month before the start date of Fiat's option to sell the rest of Fiat Auto to GM.

But the Associated Press (AP) reported later in the day that officials from both companies declined to give any details of the meeting.

"There is a meeting going to take place today," GM spokesman Ruediger Assion told AP. "It's a quarterly and steering committee meeting," he added, referring to regular discussions held between the two companies as part of their existing business relationship. It is "usual" for Wagoner and Marchionne to take part, he said.

Fiat spokesman Rafaello Porro in Turin, Italy, declined to comment to AP but confirmed a meeting was taking place with GM.

GM and Fiat appeared anxious to keep the talks under wraps, the Associated Press noted, adding that Marchionne and Wagoner had been had been expected to hold discussions at a Zurich hotel, but there was no sign of them there Tuesday afternoon. GM officials reportedly left the building without making any comment and it was unclear if any Fiat officials were present.

According to AP, Italian media later reported that Marchionne and fellow Fiat executives had instead flown from Italy directly to Friedrichshafen, on the Swiss-German border, to meet with Wagoner. A source close to the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP the meeting was taking place in Switzerland.

AP added that the outcome of talks between the two executives is uncertain - it may simply signal the start rather than the end of a round of negotiations.

Earlier, according to Reuters, Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne told the Financial Times that GM would find it hard to allow loss-making Fiat Auto to dwindle if GM ended up in control.

"There is a very good argument to say that the Italian car plants could benefit from the relocation of other GM businesses in Europe," Marchionne was quoted as saying, according to Reuters. "I think it would be very difficult for GM, being the largest car maker in the world, to walk away from its responsibilities."

The new agency noted that Fiat insists that it still has the right to sell the 90% of Fiat Auto that it owns to GM, but GM, which owns the other 10%, says the option has been invalidated by an asset sale and a recapitalisation at Fiat Auto which is still struggling to revive slumping sales.

Reuters said GM has not made money in Europe since 1999 and is in the midst of axing a fifth of its workforce in the region - the last thing it needs is to take on Fiat Auto's losses and debt.

Last week, Marchionne reportedly said that exercising the put option to sell Fiat Auto to GM was a "real, live possibility" and he continued to dismiss claims the option was invalid. "Their argument, to be blunt, has no legs," he told the Tuesday's edition of the Financial Times.

In a reminder of the problems faced by Europe's once-biggest carmaker, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said Fiat's western European car sales in November slumped 7% to just over 77,000 units, despite a nearly 10 percent rise for overall sales in the sector, Reuters noted.

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