The General Motors-Fiat alliance will soon see GM's new Rayong Zafira minivan plant in Thailand assembling the Alfa Romeo 156 for Asia-Pacific markets, industry sources say.

The deal will give Fiat relatively easy access to local production facilities for the many markets in the region still protected by various measures to encourage local assembly. It will also boost Rayong's capacity utilisation, the sources added.

Rayong was opened in 1999 to make 130,000 vehicles a year. It is expected to produce 75,000 Opel-designed Zafira minivans for GM's Asia-Pacific affiliates in 2001 and is due to start building 40,000 Isuzu-designed pickups per year from the middle of 2003.

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