Mitsubishi dumps Fiat over strong yen

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. plans to terminate a deal to develop a four-wheel-drive vehicle with Italian automaker Fiat SpA because a strengthened yen has made the deal unprofitable, a Mitsubishi official said Wednesday.

Mitsubishi and Fiat had planned to begin joint production of a four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle in Italy in April 2001.

However, Fiat Managing Director Paolo Cantarella said Fiat will break off the deal with Mitsubishi as a result of Fiat’s March 13 capital tieup with General Motors Corp. that gave GM a 20 percent stake in Fiat and Fiat a 5 percent stake in GM.

The Mitsubishi official made no reference to Fiat’s ties to GM as a reason for the cancellation of the project.

Cantarella said in an Italian motor magazine interview released Tuesday that Fiat will select a Japanese automaker affiliated with GM for the project, according to the Italian news agency Ansa.

GM has equity stakes in three Japanese automakers — Isuzu Motors Ltd., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Suzuki Motor Corp.