Stellantis changes its mind: it will bring work to Mirafiori by building a Chinese car

To the Italian government which invites the Chinese to open a factory in Italy to compete with Stellantis, the automotive group led by Carlos Tavares responds with a move of the horse: it is in fact considering bringing the production of an electric car from Leapmotor to Mirafiori, based in Hangzhou, China. In short, she brings the Chinese to Italy herself.

The news, anticipated by the specialized newspaper Automotive News, had been brewing for some time. Already on February 15, during the presentation of the 2023 budget data, Tavares had declared that “at Stellantis we have made a great strategic move with the partnership with Leapmotor. If we have the opportunity to produce Leapmotor cars in Italy we will do so, if this makes sense from an economic point of view. It is one of the great assets that we could bring to the European market. We could make this decision if there was a business case, it depends on us, on our competitiveness on costs and quality. It would be up to us to seize this opportunity.”

Now, according to Automotive News, the project is taking shape to produce 150,000 Leapmotor electric cars in Mirafiori, which has become the Stellantis battery car hub where the 500e are built. The Chinese product to be brought to Italy should be the T03, a small car similar to the Panda with a range of 280 kilometers and a very interesting price: just 20 thousand euros.

Leapmotor is a very young Chinese company: as the Vaielettrico website recalls, the company was founded in 2015 with a focus on the development of microprocessors for artificial intelligence and since 2017 Leapmotor has dedicated itself to the automotive sector with a first model launched on the market in 2019, the S1 sports coupé which went out of production in 2021. Today the company produces three models: the T03 city car, already marketed in France and Israel, the C01 sedan and the C11 high-performance SUV. For the latter, an extended range version is planned, with a small petrol engine on board which together with the battery allows you to travel more than a thousand kilometres.

But why would Stellantis choose Leapmotor? Very simple: on October 26, 2023, the Franco-Italian group announced the investment of 1.5 billion euros to acquire approximately 20% of Leapmotor and becoming one of its major shareholders. The agreement, a statement clarified, “also provides for the establishment of Leapmotor International, a 51-49 joint venture led by Stellantis, with exclusive rights to export and sell, as well as manufacture Leapmotor products outside of the Chinese region.”

Stellantis explains that the partnership aims to further increase Leapmotor sales in China, the world's largest market, “while leveraging Stellantis' established international commercial presence to significantly accelerate sales of the Leapmotor brand in other regions, starting from Europe”.

This is Tavares' comment upon the announcement of the agreement: “We believe the time is right to take a leading role in supporting the global expansion plans of Leapmotor, one of the most interesting new EV operators on the market, with an entrepreneurial mindset and technological similar to ours. Thanks to this strategic investment, we are strengthening a weak point in our business model and benefiting from Leapmotor's competitiveness in China and abroad”.

The result will be to bring the production of Chinese cars to Mirafiori: let's hope it gives a little hope for this historic former Fiat plant.