Italian car maker Fiat SpA chief executive Giuseppe Morchio said on Tuesday that the company hopes to sell 100,000 of its new Idea station wagons annually starting from 2004, according to Dow Jones.

The car is a key component in Fiat's plan to return its core car making unit to operating profit in 2005 and hits Italian dealerships in early- to mid-November, the report said.

"We aim to sell 100,000 per year," Morchio reportedly said prior to the official presentation of the new model, adding that the figure was " very conservative".

Morchio told Dow Jones the Fiat Idea will start at €13,000, depending on options including a diesel engine, a technology Fiat has pioneered in small engines.

The Idea follows hot on the heels of the debut last month of the new Panda, a legendary name in the economy car category where Fiat has long excelled, the news agency noted.

Fiat hopes to sell 70,000 of the new Pandas this year and 200,000 next year, Gianni Coda, head of the business unit for the Fiat Auto brand has said, according to Dow Jones.

The company also hopes to sell around 200,000 of the re-styled Puntos, another small car, next year, the report added.

Dow Jones said the Idea will face competition from the Opel Meriva, the Peugeot Sesame and the Renault Clio while Ford, which is trying to boost its share of the Italian market to 10% from the current 9.2%, is also about to roll out a car similar to the Idea.

Fiat hopes to sell 50% of the new models outside of Italy, Morchio told the news agency, adding that the early orders for the new Panda are "more than satisfactory in that regard (in terms of overseas sales)".

Dow Jones said that Morchio repeated that he plans for Fiat to reach operating break-even as a group in 2004.

Regarding Fiat Auto, he reiterated his target of a operating break-even in 2005 though Dow Jones noted that the company is currently in the red, and has been forced to sell off assets to pay down debt.