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TURIN, Italy, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Fiat FIA.MI has extended its programme of temporary plant closures in Italy by a month, the latest cost-cutting move by a car maker amid plunging sales in the worst industry crisis in decades.
Fiat said on Tuesday it would close for up to two weeks at a time between January and February most of its factories in the country including Mirafiori, located in its hometown of Turin.
In the most drastic case, Fiat will halt production for four weeks at Pomigliano d’Arco, the main plant for its Alfa Romeo sports cars.
Fiat already has in place a plan to shut down its six factories in Italy for periods ranging from four to six weeks between December and January.
That plan was adopted after similar measures had been taken between August and November.
The news came after the latest industry figures showed new car sales in Europe fell 26 percent in November.
Next year is also expected to be weak.
An industry group in Italy forecast on Tuesday sales in 2009 dropping by 14 percent for the whole year — the same rate expected for 2008.
Fiat’s latest initiative will see the Mirafiori and Cassino plants shut for the Jan. 12-18 and Feb. 2-8 periods.
It will idle Termini Imerese in Sicily for the Jan. 12-18 period as well as the weeks of Jan. 26 and Feb. 8.
Sevel, where Fiat makes vans in a joint venture with PSA Peugeot-Citroen (PEUP.PA) of France, will be shut down Jan. 12-13 and the weeks of Jan. 26 and Feb. 8.
At Pomigliano d’Arco near Naples the lines will remain idle from Jan. 12 to Feb. 8.
Workers sent home are paid by Italy’s “cassa integrazione” system, which offers a reduced salary from state and company funds.
For a wrapup on auto industry sales and cutbacks, double click on [ID:nLG401815] (Reporting by Gianni Montani; Editing by David Cowell)