Italian carmaker Fiat is rumored to be developing a rescue plan for struggling coachbuilder Bertone that would see the creation of an all new company. Fiat would enter into a €200 million contract with the new company to build a low-volume coupe convertible to be sold under the Lancia brand, with Bertone offering its expertise and production facilities.

Automotive News reports that Bertone would contribute industrial assets as well as actual staff to the new company with Fiat footing the bill. Officials from both companies have confirmed that talks are in progress but nothing has been finalized yet. The new model is due in 2009 with production levels expected to range between 15,000 and 20,000 units.

The outlook for niche car builders is looking grim. Bertone was forced to shed 1,400 of its 1,500 workers when its last major contract building Astra convertibles for Opel ended in September 2005. Rival Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina is laying off close to 220 employees, or roughly 10% of its staff, in an effort to return to profitability this year, while German outfit Karmann was also forced to cut 1,000 jobs last year.