just-auto.com - Fiat SpA said today it ended production in Poland of its 126 micro-car, one of the oldest and smallest vehicles made in Eastern Europe.

From 1973 to 2000, output totalled 3,318,674 units, including 2,166,349 in Tychy and 1,152,325 in Bielsko-Biała, the company said in a news release.

The 126 was exported from 1975 to 1992 with 897,316 units sold to Austria, Belgium, Chile, China, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland and the UK plus markets in Eastern Europe, according to Auto Świat, the biggest car magazine in Poland.

Fiat also produced 1,352,912 in Italy from 1972 to 1980.

Output in Poland peaked in the late 1970s at roughly 100,000 a year, but production has declined sharply, and only 10,600 were made in eight months this year, Auto Świat said.

Part of the factory for the 126 in Bielsko-Biała will be dedicated to production of a new small diesel engine, under plans by Fiat and General Motors Corp to merge their powertrain operations in Europe and South America. The site is expected to make 460,000 motors a year with 1,200 workers, Auto Świat said.

Fiat said the stoppage of the 126 would not lead to job losses, as the company has been gradually reassigning workers on the car's line to other positions in Poland over several years.

The 126, which this year cost as little as $2,700, represented roughly 10% of Fiat's leading market share in Poland of 29% in first-half 2000. But Fiat should not lose much ground to competitors, as it plans to start production there of a face-lifted Seicento before 2001, Auto Świat said.

The plants in Bielsko-Biała and Tychy formed an automotive enterprise named Fabryka Samochodow Malolitrazowych under communism. The Italian company bought FSM from the Polish state in 1992, renaming it Fiat Auto Poland SA, now the third-biggest carmaker in Eastern Europe, after Lada-maker AO AvtoVAZ of Russia and Volkswagen AG's Skoda auto AS of the Czech Republic.

Ryan James Tutak, associate editor of Eastern Europe at just-auto.com

Ryan can be contacted in Budapest by:
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