Honorary Fiat Chairman Giovanni Agnelli says that he is still determined to maintain the independence of the century-old motor company, writes the UK's Financial Times (23/11/00).

According to the newspaper, speculation has resurfaced that Fiat is for sale with the death of Mr Agnelli's 46-year-old son Edoardo last week alongside the company's alliance with General Motors. In an interview with the FT however, 79-year-old Mr Agnelli insisted that this alliance was designed only to return Fiat's car operations to the US.

Earlier this year, the US auto-maker agreed to buy a 20 per cent stake in Fiat Auto, the core car division. In return, Fiat acquired a 6 per cent stake in GM, becoming the largest industrial stakeholder in the US car manufacturer, says the article.

This deal is reported to include an option allowing Fiat to sell the remaining 80 per cent of its auto-subsidiary to GM within three-and-a-half years, although Mr Agnelli - whose family has a controlling equity stake in the Group of around 30 per cent - said he has no intention of exercising this option.

Mr Agnelli continued, saying that relations between Fiat and General Motors were 'excellent'.