UPDATE 1-Fiat denies report to build mini-SUVs at Melfi plant

Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:23am EDT

* Newspaper also said closure of Mirafiori plant shelved

* Update on business plan expected on Oct 30

* Italy court rules against Fiat in labour case (Adds court ruling against Fiat)

MILAN, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Fiat denied a press report about its investment plan which said it was considering producing two new small sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in Melfi in southern Italy from 2014.

Rome-based Il Messaggero had also said in its report on the plan to be presented by Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne on Oct. 30 that Fiat had shelved the idea of closing its Mirafiori car plant in Turin.

In a statement, Fiat said the report was the result of groundless media speculation.

The Italian parent of U.S. automaker Chrysler will centre its new business plan around ways to boost production for export, the paper said.

The combined Fiat-Chrysler group, which now makes more than two thirds of its profits in the United States, is expected to give an update of its business plan, taking into account dire market conditions in Europe, with its third-quarter results on Oct. 30.

The carmaker had previously said it planned to produce a Fiat-branded mini-SUV at its flagship Mirafiori plant at the end of 2013 and a small Jeep SUV in the second quarter of 2014.

Unions have said Marchionne told them the update will include details on investments in Italy which have been put on hold because of the economic crisis.

In 2010, Fiat released a five-year, 16 billion euros ($21 billion) investment plan for Italy demanding in return greater labour flexibility. However the investments have been postponed as domestic car sales slumped to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Also on Friday a Rome appeals court ordered Fiat to reinstate 145 workers it dismissed earlier this year over a labour dispute with Italy's largest metalworkers union.

The Fiom-CGIL union says Fiat discriminated against its members, refusing to hire them at its Pomigliano plant near Naples because they had refused to sign a new labour contract Fiat says will reduce absenteeism and boost productivity.

A lower court had already ordered Fiat to re-hire the workers in June but the carmaker had appealed against the ruling. (Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)

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