Embattled Slovak economy minister Robert Nemcsics said on Tuesday that Slovakia could draw investment of more than $US2.6 billion in the coming years, mainly from investors into the country’s booming car industry, Reuters reported.

The news agency said Nemcsics is under fire after his junior coalition party, ANO, moved to sack him for insubordination on Monday after he criticised ANO’s head Pavol Rusko for being too confrontational.

Nemcsics reportedly said that if he is replaced, it should not negatively affect investment in Slovakia, which has been growing steadily since receiving the green light to join the EU next year.

“There is a potential for investment of over 100 billion crowns,” Nemcsics told a news conference, according to Reuters.

He reportedly said only that various projects were in various stages of preparation.

“In principle, these are investors whom Slovakia has convinced it is worth investing in… A majority of these investments are aimed at the automotive industry.”

Reuters said the car industry has become the main pillar of the Slovak economy, accounting for about 20% of overall industrial sales, and is driven mainly by a Volkswagen assembly plant near the capital Bratislava and its surrounding supply factories.

Meanwhile, French PSA Peugeot Citroen is planning to launch production of 300,000 vehicles a year in 2006 at a 700 million euro Slovak plant that is now under construction, Reuters noted.

Hyundai Motor also is considering Slovakia as a potential site for a €1.5 billion factory destined for central or eastern Europe and will decide next spring, the report added.