Fiat has widened its search for a new chief executive at its loss-making car unit as doubts mounted whether former Ford Europe CEO Martin Leach would be allowed to take the job, industry sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The news agency said Leach quit Ford last month, reportedly to take over the controls of Fiat Auto from CEO Giancarlo Boschetti, who is due to retire in 2004, but his contract is understood to include a non-compete clause lasting from six to nine months.

Some media have reported the lock-out could be as long as two years, Reuters added.

Reuters said that Italy’s transport ministry reported on Wednesday that Fiat’s August sales fell 8.5%, though its market share including the Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands increased from the month before to 30.3%.