Fiat is considering legal action against Chinese car maker Great Wall Motor after it launched a car resembling Fiat's Panda, a source close to the Italian industrial group was reported to have said on Tuesday.

"(Fiat is) currently considering legal action," the source told Reuters, confirming an earlier report by industry publication Automotive News.

The source did not elaborate, and Fiat declined to comment to the news agency.

Automotive News said Great Wall's Peri most resembled the Panda, Fiat's popular city car.

Great Wall showed the car as a prototype at the Beijing motor show two weeks ago, Marco De Bonis, marketing director of Eurasia Motor, Great Wall's distributor in Italy, told the news agency.

De Bonis told Reuters the car was expected to go on sale in China by March or April 2007 and Italy some time in the summer.

A Great Wall spokesman reportedly dismissed the possible threat of legal action, saying the automaker owned the proprietary technologies for all the vehicles it made.

"It's impossible for us to copy others. We own the technologies," he told Reuters, declining to comment further.

The report noted that Great Wall has made Italy its entry point into Europe, bringing 500 Hover sports utility vehicles (SUVs) to the country last October with plans to bring another 500-700 next March.

De Bonis reportedly said Great Wall aimed to increase the number of dealers who sold its brand to 100 from 90 by the end of the year.

Great Wall's general manager Wang Fengying told Reuters in November it planned to expand to Greece, Spain and Portugal sometime next year.

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