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European Automakers Likely to Build Plants in U.S.

The dollar’s falling value is making European automakers eager to build more vehicles in the United States, even as American car companies continue to shift production to lower-cost countries.

Fiat, the Italian carmaker, is the latest company to suggest that it may build a plant in the United States. Its chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, told Automotive News Europe for an article published Monday that its sports car brand, Alfa Romeo, needs a North American plant to be profitable. Alfa Romeo is returning to the United States next year after a 13-year absence.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen of Germany is scouting locations for a plant in the eastern United States. It was the first foreign carmaker to open an American factory, in New Stanton, Pa., but closed the factory in 1988. Volkswagen’s chief executive, Stefan Jacoby, said during the Los Angeles Auto Show last month that the company would decide by mid-2008 whether to build the factory.

Fiat and Volkswagen are mass-market European brands, as opposed to BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which operate luxury car factories in the American South. Analysts said the arrival of Volkswagen and Fiat could lead others, like the French companies Renault and PSA Peugeot-Citroen, to move production to this country as well, if the euro remains strong.

Explosions in Baghdad Kill Nine, Damage a Refinery

A spate of bomb, rocket, and mortar attacks rocked areas of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least nine people and exploding part of a major oil refinery, sending up a thick column of smoke that dominated the city’s skyline for much of the day.

Seven of the people killed were prison inmates, who died after mortar shells landed on a prison in central Baghdad, smashing its walls.

The attacks came amid an overall lull in violence here, where terrorist attacks have plummeted compared with previous months and years.

Yet despite the relative calm, the pace of attacks has quickened of late, with suicide and other bombers killing at least 50 people nationwide in the past week.

The Baghdad explosions started before dawn at 6 a.m. on Monday, when rockets landed in the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the American and Iraqi government buildings are housed behind miles of blast walls. There were no reported deaths, and officials would not comment on whether anyone was hurt.

An hour later, moments after sunrise, mortar shells landed on a large warehouse at the Dora oil refinery to the city’s south, igniting hundreds of tanks of gas and kerosene.