FCA to resume preparatory operations at Melfi plant in Italy from Monday

MILAN (Reuters) – An average of 750 workers of Fiat Chrysler Melfi assembly plant in southern Italy will be back to work next week to prepare the facility for the final development of the group’s new hybrid cars, a union representative said on Friday.

Marco Lomio, of UILM union, said the automaker had informed unions that workers would have to complete cars left unfinished on assembly lines when the plant was shut in mid-March following rules imposed by Rome to stem the coronavirus spread.

“We’ll start with 500 people on Monday and we’ll peak on Wednesday with around 1.000 workers,” Lomio said.

This would then allow Fiat Chrysler (FCA) (FCHA.MI) to have lines free to build prototypes of new plug-in hybrid versions of Jeep’s Compass and Renegade models, he said.

A spokesman for FCA declined to comment.

The partial restart of operations at Melfi, which normally employs 7,400 workers, adds to FCA plan to resume van production in Atessa plant, in central Italy, a week before a national lockdown imposed by the Rome government is officially due to end.

Around 6,000 Atessa workers out of a total of 6,500 are expected to be back to work on Monday, according to a source.

As for Atessa, in Melfi FCA has sought a green light from local authorities, relying on their tacit consent, as it makes use of a provision in Italy’s lockdown laws that allows companies whose activity can be linked to “essential” sectors to reopen, Lomio said.

Building prototypes of new hybrid cars is considered part of R&D activities, deemed essential by the government.

Lomio said FCA would probably restart developing those prototypes immediately from May 4.

He added that, following production stoppage linked to the virus emergency, FCA would hardly start selling new hybrid version of Jeep’s Compass and Renegade models before September, compared with the automaker’s plan prior to the outbreak to start in July.