The first examples of a new, jointly developed light commercial vehicle (LCV) van range rolled off the line at the Tofas factory in Bursa, Turkey, yesterday at an inaguration ceremony that brought together the CEOs of both PSA Peugeot Citroen and Fiat Group.

For this project, code named 'Minicargo', EUR380m was spent and, over the life cycle of the project, more than 1m vehicles will be built and exported, mainly to European markets.

At the ceremony to unveil the Fiat Fiorino, Peugeot Bipper and Citroen Nemo, PSA Peugeot Citroen CEO Christian Streiff said that they had written a new page in automotive history with this project which is creating a new segment in the commercial vehicle market.

Streiff indicated the project was completed in less time than planned. He said it was developed and brought to Fiat by PSA Group and that the development of the vehicle was done mostly in Europe with the assistance of Tofas engineers.

Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne said this latest cooperation had strengthened the existing partnership with PSA and Tofas. Fiat already builds medium and large vans in western Europe in partnership with PSA.

The three new vehicles will be launched first in Turkey and Italy in December and rolled out to other markets from February 2008.

They're 3.86m long and roomy inside, with a load volume of 2.5cm3. A stowable passenger seat enables capacity to be increased to 2.8cm3 for a loading space length of 2.5m.

The front end design will be approximately the same, apart from badges, but each version will be differentiated by engines.

Fiat will use its 1.3litre Multijet engine while PSA will using their 1.4 HDI unit. PSA will purchase two thirds of production.

Panorama and passenger versions are still under development for launch in 2008.

This project has added 158,000 units to Tofas' annual capacity  - total capacity will be 360,000 by 2008.

Tofas has invested in new machinery, robots and also 2,700 additional workers.

A brand new press costing EUR9m is said to be best in Europe for capacity and speed.

Tofas sources told just-auto that BMW will visit the factory to see this machine soon.

Levent Köprülü